Parents often don’t put kids in booster seats when carpooling

Practical obstacles, plus peer pressure

- By Michelle Healy USA TODAY

Parents who buckle children into protective booster seats when riding in the family car are often not as conscienti­ous when carpooling, a study finds.

Overall, 76% of 681 parents of kids ages 4 to 8 in a nationally representa­tive survey say they use a booster seat for their own child, but only 55% insist on it when driving other children. And though 64% carpool, 21% do not insist on booster seats when their child is riding with another driver, says the study in the February Pediatrics, out today.

The finding is “disturbing because close to 70% of parents say they carpool children other than their own, and when they do, they’re often failing to use booster seats,” says lead study author Michelle Macy, a pediatrici­an at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

Why do parents abandon safety seats when carpooling? Practical barriers, including limited vehicle space and difficulti­es making arrangemen­ts with other drivers, were often mentioned, Macy says. Peer pressure is also a likely factor, she says — “not only pressure on parents but the peer pressure that kids start to feel” during the early school years.

But using a booster seat reduces risk of injury by 50% com- pared with seat belts, says Macy, an emergency physician.

Designed for children who have outgrown their forward- facing car seat until they reach 57 inches tall, booster seats give kids “the right posture so that an adult seat belt can be properly positioned,” she says. “Wearing a poorly positioned belt puts children at greater risk of injuries to abdominal organs, spine bones and the spine itself.”

Most states require parents to use a booster seats for toddlers, often until children are 8 years old, but laws vary from state to state. For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an insurance industry-funded safety group, says Florida allows adult seat belts for ages 4 to 5, while Wyoming says kids ages 4 to 8 must be in a “child restraint.” Tennessee requires seats for kids ages 4 to 8 and under 4-foot-9.

Booster seat recommenda­tions revised last year by the American Academy of Pediatrics place more emphasis on height than age, and they encourage parents to use a belt-positionin­g booster seat until a child reaches 57 inches, the height at which proper fit in an adult seat is expected, Macy says.

“No one puts a child on a ride at Disneyland if they don’t meet the height restrictio­ns,” she says. “Parents should have that same attitude when it comes to using adult seat belts.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States