Putting Your Child in a Booster Seat Too Soon Could Have Tragic Consequences

seat beltThere was a terrible car accident in Las Vegas earlier this week, which killed 3-year-old girl Emily Kay and left her father, Casey Barringer, in critical condition. My heart goes out to the family, and I'm hoping the father makes a recovery from his injuries, but even so, recovering from losing a child is never going to truly happen. It is suspected that the booster seat Emily Kay was properly secured into was actually not safe for her to be in. The family is going public with the story because they were unaware that Emily was too small for the booster seat and that she would have been safer in a car seat.

I want to make it clear, no one is blaming anyone for this tragedy, as some booster seats say they are safe for kids as little as 30 pounds. But the truth is, they are not. It hurt my heart to read this story. But there is a lot we can learn from it.


I see parents nearly every day improperly putting their child in their car seat or using a seat that is unsafe. I'm sure they think they are doing it right. I've made mistakes -- I thought I was doing it right, but that's why it's called a mistake. Just like why an accident is called an accident -- it's not something you want to do or plan. It happens. Which is why car seat safety is very serious business and we all need to learn more and stay up-to-date on the latest recommendations and laws.

"No one really realizes how quickly it can happen," Ashley Orr, the father's fiance, told Action News 13. "It happens in an instant, but the damage is permanent. Our little girl didn't make it. People need to realize that even one tiny mistake, can make all the difference."

What we all need to know, including car seat manufacturers, is that we shouldn't put a child in a booster seat before the recommended age of 4 years old and 40 pounds minimum. We also shouldn't let a child out of a booster before the minimum age of 8 years old and 4'9". This is just the bare minimum and doesn't mean we should be rushing to do it. In most kids, the vertebrae arch hasn't fused into a circle, which is what protects the spine until around the age of 3 to 6, so their spine isn't as strong, which is why we keep our kids in the properly secured seats to prevent injury. So why do some seats say it's okay for your child to use a booster at 3 years and 30 pounds? Who knows, but it's wrong. Plus it doesn't mean it's legal in your state as each state has their own set of car seat safety laws. Besides, we want to do what best and safest, not what a piece of paper says on a product, right? Many of the better brand car seats and boosters have the proper recommendations. This is one area you don't want to buy cheap.

This was a head-on collision. And this little 3-year-old just wasn't safe in a booster with a lap belt holding her in. Too small; too easily could she be released out of what seemed to be secure. Too easily could she sustain life-threatening injuries.

I have 3-year-old twins. The same age as this little girl who died. This story is that of nightmares. I worry about car accidents. But I was lucky enough to work where I work and have friends who really know about car seat safety. Not everyone is privy to that information, which is why we need to get it out there. We need to spread the word to save lives. My 3-year-olds are still rear-facing in car seats. And they will be until they are 40 pounds, which is what our seats allow. I'm not in a rush for my kids to grow up or graduate to forward-facing. Not when their safety depends on it.

Jeanne Cosgrove Marsala, the director of Safe Kids at Sunrise Children's Hospital, told the news that it is a common misconception to think a booster is safe for a 3-year-old. She went on:

You should never put a child under 40 pounds in a backless booster seat that only uses the adult-sized safety belt as a restraint. You should keep a child in a car seat with an over-the-head harness for as long as possible.

We don't know if a different car seat would have meant a different outcome in this accident, but Marsala said it could help save other lives. She shared that 90 percent of us are doing something wrong when it comes to car seats. We all need to educate ourselves and help others because 90 percent wrong could mean a lot of deaths.

The community in Las Vegas has rallied together along with the local hospital to help educate parents about car seat safety. We should be doing this in our own towns as well, and we can find help in SafeKids.org to find a location near you to keep you informed of the latest and safest rules.

I'm praying for that family. And also praying more parents learn about how to keep their children safest when in cars.

Did you know about the booster seat rule on how it's not recommended until kids are 4? How do you stay up-to-date on car seat safety?


Image via goodgerster/Flickr

Read More >