Many parents already know that booster seats are the next step
after children outgrow car seats. But when, exactly, do they
outgrow the booster seat? The answer may be later than you
think-not until age 9, according to a new study from Children's Hospital of
Philadelphia, published in the November issue of Pediatrics.
Previous research on the
effectiveness of booster seats has focused primarily on children
ages 4 and 5, says lead researcher Dr. Kristy Arbogast, director of
engineering at CHOP's Center for Injury Research and Prevention.
But with an increasing number of older children using booster
seats, she says it was important to look at the effectiveness in
this age group as well.
And the results give a boost to the boosters. Even for children up
to 8 years old, the seat reduced the risk of injury by about half.
"These are real benefits, preventing injuries to the head, to the
face, to the abdomen and, in more serious crashes, to the spine,"
Arbogast says. "These are real injuries that parents want to
The study also found that there was
no detectable difference between high back and backless booster
seats, which Arbogast says can help parents whose children don't
want to be in a "baby seat." She suggests transitioning first from
a harnessed car seat to a high-backed car seat. And then, when
children start to complain, switch to a backless seat.
"The child thinks they won -- they successfully got out of the
restraint they were in -- but you as a parent know you haven't
compromised," she says. "That kind of staged transition is an
effective parenting approach to encourage kids to be in booster
But the most important thing to
remember, she says, is to use the booster seat on every trip, which
ensures that the seatbelt will fit properly. "It really is the
single most important decision parents can make to keep their
children safe from fatal injuries," Arbogast says
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