I admit it, I am shocked at the number of car seats I have had to buy to get my kid to 5. There was the infant seat. There was the car seat. There was a second car seat because the first one got vomit on it and was uncleanable. Now we have a booster. Omitted from this list is duplicates of everything because we’re a two car family.
Your kids will likely need 3 separate car seats to get them through their childhood. You may choose to buy a convertible seat that will face backwards, then forwards, then come apart like some sort of Transformer and turn into a booster, we chose to buy separate seats at each stage.
But when do you switch your kids in each stage? The requirements are listed by weight, but (and you can see where this is going) with our heavier society, the weight requirements aren’t necessarily matching up with age requirements which, according to Consumer Reports, is leading to some potentially deadly situation.
Of the 34 booster seat models in our tests, 28 state a minimum allowable weight of between 30 and 33 pounds. Current growth charts, however, show that the average 30-pound child is about two-and-a-half years old, far too young to move a child out of a seat with a harness, according to our safety experts.
When it comes to car seats, redshirting is a good idea. Hold your kids back longer to make them safer.
“Don’t rush to ‘graduate’ your child from their 5-point-harness into a booster seat,” says Alisa Baer, MD, a pediatrician in New York City known as the Car Seat Lady. “Before you let your child ride in a booster, make sure they are, ideally, at least 4 years old AND at least 40 pounds AND — perhaps most importantly — mature enough to sit properly in the booster for the entire trip. That means no squirming, slouching or leaning over.”
And don’t ditch the booster too soon. Kids need to stay in booster seats until the shoulder belt can fit comfortably on them, that could be as late as 12 years of age. Until your child is 4’9″, they should be in a booster.
Here are some more common sense booster seat reminders:
1. Children who have outgrown forward-facing car seats are ready to use a booster seat if they are less than 4 feet 9 inches tall and weigh between 40 and 80 pounds (18-36kg). Putting your child in a seatbelt before he is big enough puts him at risk for serious injury or death in a crash.
2. Seatbelts are made for people at least 4 feet 9 inches (145 cm) tall. When a child is too small for a seat belt, it touches the child’s neck and rests too high on his stomach. Without a booster seat, your child could be seriously injured in a crash. A booster seat provides 75 percent more protection than seat belts alone.
3. A high back booster seat provides head and neck protection in cars without head restraints. A no back booster seat can be used in cars that have adjustable head restraints or high seat backs.
4. With a used car seat, you can’t see the stress fractures, and you don’t know the history of the seat. One accident or bumper crunch could be enough to render the seat useless. In fact, in many jurisdictions, it can be illegal to sell a used car seat. It is certainly illegal to buy them in the US and them bring them to Canada to use (transportation safety regulations are different).
5. To find out if your child is ready for the seat belt, measure your child, and then check that the seat belt fits correctly. The shoulder belt should cross your child’s chest without touching his face or neck, and the lap belt should fit low over his hips. If the seat belt does not fit this way, your child still needs to use a booster seat.
6. All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection. That means no “shotgun” either. The shoulder belt rides too high on the neck and head of shorter, younger children. This does not restrain them across the chest, but instead can cause face and neck injuries.
7. full rundown on installing, choosing, and buying a car seat, check out the Consumer Reports Car Seat Buying Guide.