New findings from The Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll revealed that the majority of parents are unaware of the height guidelines associated with using a booster seat.
The current car seat safety law states children should be in a booster style seat up until the age of seven. But what if your seven-year-old is a lightweight or not quite as tall as other seven-year-olds?
We’re not alone in the confusion
According to the study by the Royal Children’s Hospital, most parents have no idea that there is a height guideline for when it’s safe for kids to travel in a standard seat.
While, by law, children aged over seven don’t have to be in a booster seat when travelling in the car, adult seatbelts are designed to safely restrain a person of at least 145 cm in height. This means that unless your child is 145 cms or above at seven years of age, they should still be using a booster seat to ensure optimum safety.
Booster seats protect those children who are less than 145 cm tall, by lifting them up so that the seatbelt fits better across their shoulder, chest and hips.
No test required, you can SEE if your child is too small for a standard seat
You can easily see if a child is too small for a standard (adult) seat in a vehicle. The seatbelt cuts high across the neck instead of the shoulder and when your child’s back is flat against the seat, their knees should bend at the edge of the seat. If your child IS too small (no matter their age), back to the booster-seat, buddy.
The Royal Children’s Hospital poll reveals:
- Two-thirds of children (63%) aged seven to 10 years travel in an adult seatbelt without a booster seat, even though the majority of these children are below the recommended height to safely use an adult seatbelt.
- Most parents (71%) indicated they did not know how tall a child should be to safely use an adult seatbelt and among the 29% who reported knowing, only 11% got it right – meaning fewer than 3% of parents know that children should be at least 145 cm tall to safely travel in an adult seatbelt without a booster seat.
- The risk of injury for seven to twelve-year-olds doubles when they sit up front.
- Only one in 10 (11%) children were 10 years or older when first travelling in the family car without a booster seat.
The information gathered from the poll suggests the vast majority of parents are transitioning their children out of the booster seat much earlier than recommended.
Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll Director Dr Anthea Rhodes says, “Children aged seven to 12 years old are being left vulnerable to life-threatening injuries from car crashes due to inadequate use of car restraints and travelling in the front seat of the car.”
Extending booster seat use by older children until they reach a height of at least 145cm may be a way of reducing child death and disability from road traffic crashes.
If there’s any uncertainty, simply remember that children aged up to 12 years are safest travelling in the back seat of the car.
Not just older kids, babies are at risk too
Don’t be so quick to turn your baby seat around either. Infants should remain rearward facing for two years to ensure they’re in the safest position possible in a moving vehicle.
While older kids might be miffed at the prospect of remaining in a booster seat, it gives them a growth goal! Mark 145cm on a wall or height chart so that children can see themselves they’re not tall enough to graduate seats.
Could you be making a common car seat mistake? We all want what is best for our children and if extending the time spent in a booster seat saves them from potentially being seriously hurt in an accident, then so be it. Buckle up!