Manufacturers market booster seats to parents whose children are too young to safely travel in one, increasing the risk of serious injury. Here are some issues you may face in these difficult but vital cases – and how to get around them.
Before children are large enough to be placed in booster seats, they typically are buckled into forward-facing restraint systems, also referred to as “harness seats.”1 Nearly all harness seats incorporate a five-point harness with straps that secure at the shoulders, across the upper thighs, and between the child’s legs. Most children then graduate to booster seats, which elevate a child so that a vehicle's integrated lap and shoulder belt will fit safely and appropriately.2
Many booster seat companies market their products as equally safe and appropriate as harness seats for children weighing as little as 30 pounds and as young as three. But this directly contradicts the recommendations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP.)3 Both state that children between three and seven should ride in a harness seat until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer and outgrow the harness seat.4
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1. 49 C.F.R §571.213 S4 (2017).
2. See id.
3. Dennis R. Durbin, Policy Statement—Child Passenger Safety, 127 Pediatrics 788 (2011).
4. Nat'l Highway Traffic Safety Admin., Car Seat Recommendations for Children (March 21, 2011), https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/nhtsa-releases-new-child-seat-guidelines