Once they have children, most parents become familiar with car seats. The hospital will not allow you to take your precious little one home until you have a safe car seat for your baby to ride home in. But once that child is too big for that car seat, what happens? Booster seats can be a little more unfamiliar. Questions like "how long does my child need one?" or "does my child even really need a booster seat?" seem to surround this child safety tool. Here are some facts that should help answer some of those questions.
Facts on Booster Seats
When most kids turn 4, that is when parents need to move them from their forward-facing car seat to a booster seat. Most forward-facing car seats accommodate children between 20 and 40 lbs.; however, some models made by Britax can accommodate children up to 65 lbs. and even as much as 80 lbs. The child needs to continue to use the booster seat until the vehicle's seat belt lies correctly across the child's chest and lap. The belt should sit comfortably across the lap, hitting the upper thighs, and the chest strap should cross the child from the shoulder and not the neck.
Types of Booster Seats
There are really only two general types of booster seats. The backless booster seat is to be used in vehicles where the child's head can be supported by the seat of the car. This means that when the child is sitting upright in the booster seat, his head, to the top of the ears, should have a seat or headrest behind it. This is important for impact safety in the case of an accident. Then there is the high-back booster seat. These come in two types. The combination high-back can be used as a car seat with a 5-point harness for children up to a specified weight or as a belt positioning booster. There is also the belt positioning booster. These seats have a higher back that will provide head and neck support in case of a crash if the vehicle does not have a high enough seat for the child.
Many parents do not realize when it is time to move their child to a booster seat. The best advice is to know the weight and height limitations of the forward-facing car seat your child is using; once your child reaches those limits, you need to put that child in a booster seat. Another problem is when parents do not put their child in a booster seat once he or she has outgrown the car seat. Most states require children under 4 feet 9 inches be in a booster seat for safety, but for those who live in a state where this is not yet a law, a booster seat is the still safest seat in a car for a child under 4 feet 9 inches.
History of Car Seats
Strictly speaking, car seats for children have been in existence since the 1930s, but these seats were only used to give the child some height in order to see out of the car, not for safety reasons. Around 1960, car seats started to be designed for children to provide safer ways for them to ride in cars. Now young children are required to be in car seats and booster seats until they are tall enough for the seat belt to work correctly in an accident.
Function of Booster Seats
The most basic purpose of a booster seat is to provide a safe seat for children during car rides, not to help them see out the window better. Since many children are not tall enough for the car's seat belt to sit properly until they are at least 8 years old, a booster seat helps that seat belt work properly. The key to ensuring proper setup of all booster seats is to have the seat in a spot that has both a lap and shoulder section of the safety belt.