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"Can't she just wear a seat belt?" my daughter's grandpa asks me with a sigh. "No, sorry. She's got to have her booster," I say. It's hard sometimes to explain why the rules have changed, but after our conversation, Grandpa dutifully moved the booster seat from my car to his.
A new generation of car seat laws has kids sitting in boosters for a long time, often through third grade and beyond. But booster seat laws are far more than annoying regulations -- a new study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that they're saving kids' lives.
Researchers examined child traffic injuries in New York state two years before a booster seat law was implemented and for three years after. The law says that children ages four to six must use a booster seat when riding in a car. During that time, booster seat use increased to 50 percent compliance -- up from 26 percent -- and traffic-related injuries in the four to six age group fell by 18 percent.
Booster seat laws vary from state to state (find your state's law here), but here's what experts recommend for every child:
- Infants should ride in a rear-facing seat until they outgrow the manufacturer's height and weight requirement for their particular seat. At the very least, babies should ride rear-facing until they are two years old.
- Toddlers and preschoolers should remain rear-facing for as long as possible in a convertible car seat. When their height and weight exceed the rear-facing limit, they should be turned around and strapped in using the five-point harness.
- Preschoolers should continue using the five-point harness in their forward-facing car seat until they outgrow their convertible car seat.
- School-age children should ride in a booster seat in the back seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall -- usually between eight and 12 years old.
- Older children should use an adult belt and shoulder strap in the backseat until they are 13 years old.
Don't be in a rush to move your child up to the next step, say experts. The longer you can keep your kid rear-facing and in a five-point harness, the safer they'll be. Likewise, if they don't fit into an adult belt, don't be in a hurry to donate that booster seat. If you're unsure how to install or use any infant, convertible or booster seat, contact your local state police or AAA office for help.
Do you think booster seat laws are appropriate or overprotective? Chime in below!