A boost for booster seats

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 avoid.”

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 seats.”

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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