Survey results published this week found that the majority of parents report carpooling with their 4 to 8 year-old children. About three-quarters (76%) of those carpooling parents reported that their child used a booster seat when riding in the family car. But when carpooling–the seats were used far less often. For example, the survey found 1 out of 5 parents do not always ask other drivers to use a booster seat for their child. And only half of parents always have their child use a booster seat when riding with friends who do not have boosters. So what your friends do really may change what you do.
This makes sense. I guess. It’s clear people get tired of recommendations. Today, for example, when I sent out a link to the Washington State Booster Seat Law, someone replied on Twitter, “Oh come ON!”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the AAP recommend children ride in a car seat/booster seat until they are 4 foot 9 inches tall (57 inches) and between the age of 8 and 12 years. Studies show that state booster seat laws increase the use of safety seats (and consequent injuries) in children. Fortunately, 47 states have booster seat laws. However, even though the laws improve use, booster seat utilization remains imperfect, suboptimal and certainly not 100%. Remember 3 states don’t even have laws (hint: Arizona, Florida, South Dakota).
Booster seats have been shown to substantially reduce the risk of severe injury in motor vehicle collisions
Accidents are the leading cause of death for children–cars are involved in the majority of these. Figuring out why all families don’t use booster seats is an important step in understanding how to protect more children. Most people don’t like to advertise they don’t use booster seats. So researchers sought to figure out a bit more about barriers to use. Hence the carpooling questions.
Carpooling and Booster Seats Survey Findings:
- Families were surveyed in January 2010 online, the questions on carpooling were included in a larger survey of 51 questions that covered general health care issues for children (vaccines, eating, discipline, etc). Parents included in this report had children between the age of 4 and 8 years. The majority of parents stated that they (64%) carpool their children.
- Most parents used a booster seat for their child when riding in their own car (76%).
- Most parents (79%) indicated they would always ask another driver to use a booster seat for their child and 55% reported they always have their child use their booster seat when driving friends who don’t have one.
- More than 1/3 of parents perceived difficulties making arrangements to have booster seats available for other people’s children. And the researchers noted, not surprisingly, that other studies have found difficulties transferring child safety seats between vehicles to be a reason for not using them.
- Seat belt use (for 4 to 8 year-olds) was associated with living in a state without a booster seat law covering the child’s age. The study confirmed previous data that laws are an important motivator for parents to use a booster seat.
- In response to a hypothetical scenario of needing to transport more children than they had available seat belts in the back seat(s), most parents (72%) said they would call for another parent to help rather than transport the child without a safe place to sit.
- Researchers also asked hypothetical questions about attitudes, norms, self-efficacy, and vehicle constraints. Basically questions like, “How strongly do you agree with the statement ‘Even if there were no laws, I would still use a booster seat.” Or ‘It is okay for my child to use only a seat belt when they are going on short trips.” The far majority of parents felt they would use a booster even if there was no law (78%).
I certainly know this isn’t an out-of-sight-out-of-mind thing. I think, as the research supported, this is a manners/cultural/societal thing. If your friends aren’t using booster seats, some parents find it awkward to ask them to do so for their child. And although parents did report the inconvenience of transferring seats as an issue, the societal norms seemed to play a stronger role.
What do you think? Do you relax your rules for using booster seats when carpooling? Why? Any idea how to break the habit?
I am such a stickler about proper car seat/booster seat use. I send one with my daughter(8) when she is going with other people and always have an extra in my car for friends. I won’t let anyone under 13 sit in front and my 19 month old is still rear facing. It is one place I am unwilling to bend the rules. I never known when some other distracted driver is going to cause an accident and I want my children and certainly other people’s children to be as safe as possible. The person that commented \Oh come on\ to you probably doesn’t follow the recommendations. I know so many parents who let their kids decide when to stop using the car/booster seat and where they sit in the car including the front seat. I would rather be the bad guy and say sorry its the law for your safety then risk something happening.
My son is 10.5 and uses a booster on every trip unless I’m certain that the adult seat belt fits him in the vehicle he’ll be riding in. He complains once in a while but I’m the parent and I make the decisions.
My older daughter is 6 and rides in her harnessed car seat or a high-backed booster on every trip, period.
The five-step test is a great way to assess seat belt fit, by the way. If a child doesn’t pass, he or she needs a booster. https://www.carseat.org/Boosters/630.htm
(My younger daughter is 2 and rides rear-facing every trip.)
If parents think they’ll have trouble fitting enough boosters/car seats into their vehicle, http://www.car-seat.org is a great resource for finding combinations that work.
I’m shocked that people get cranky about this. It’s your child’s life, for god’s sake! Wow.
Life is about taking reasonable risks. These car seat regulations, in my opinion, are not merited, and border on fear-mongering.
You have to be careful with the statistics here, when you say,
“Accidents are the leading cause of death for children–cars are involved in the majority of these.”
What you have to look at is, what are the chances that you will be in a car accident, *and* the “better” car seat would have provided protection, whereas the “worse or no carseat” would not. There are many car accidents so severe that even the best carseat would not have prevented injury, and other accidents involving cars where the kid was not in the car (e.g. walking across the street).
The question you need to ask is, “How many children are saved from injury each year due to these stricter car seat regulations?” I ran these numbers once a few years back, and the number is exceedingly small!
Instead, we are stuck buying expensive car seats, recycling them after 5 years of use, and having to buy bigger and bigger cars in order to carpool a few kids to school (since even normal sized sedans with three back seat belts won’t fit three carseats across the seat, and you can’t put kids in the front seat).
That being said, I comply with the laws, even when carpooling other kids, and send a booster along with my kids when they ride with other people. But, I seethe every time I have to do it.
The flyer, posted by BookMama, has some nice suggestions for determining if a seat belt fits. But it also suggests keeping kids in the back seat until they are old enough to drive! Wow! Talk about excessive! So, they are supposed to go from *never* being in the front seat of a car to starting to learn how to drive one, all in the same day?!
“But it also suggests keeping kids in the back seat until they are old enough to drive!”
I didn’t realize the website said that, and while I *do* recommend keeping kids in the back seat until they’re 13 (as your vehicle’s manual/visor probably recommend anyway), I don’t particularly urge parents to keep kids in the back seat after 13 unless they are particularly small. (You don’t want their face to be in the air bag zone.) Once a kid starts to approach driving age, I do think there is benefit in them being in the front sometimes so they can learn to navigate, etc.
As far as car seats having to be expensive, that’s not true. All car seats have to pass the same standards and all offer at least the same basic level of protection. (With the more expensive seats, you’re mostly paying for comfort and ease-of-use features.) On a budget? A $40 Scenera and then a $50 Turbobooster should get a child to seatbelt age. 🙂
Oops, I should have said that car seats offer at least the same basic level of protection *when used correctly.* (Unfortunately, according to Safe Kids, we know that about 80% of car seats are used incorrectly.)
I am glad that you “ran the numbers,” and I am sure your calculator worked great, but the people who actually do statistics and scientific research for a living have found there is a statistical benefit to keeping children rear-facing and in booster seats longer. Even if it is a small fraction of a percent of safer (and it’s not – it’s more than that), if your ONE child is one of those that is saved, then that number won’t seem so small.
You ask the question “What are the chances that you will be in a car accident, *and* the “better” car seat would have provided protection, whereas the “worse or no carseat” would not?” Well, there have actually been studies showing what car seat, how it’s positioned, and where in the car it is positioned, that demonstrate the answer to exactly that question.
Fear mongering is not giving people solid EVIDENCE that something is safer and giving them the steps to take to make sure their children are safer. Car seats DO cost money, but there are many inexpensive brands on the market that fit the bill. My friends and I switch infant and toddler car seats back and forth, because we know the history of the seats and that they aren’t too old to be safety-compliant.
I am sure you were just using a strong word choice, but really? Seething over doing the right, safe thing for your child? Save your energy for the more complicated parenting decisions. The safest thing for you and your child? A no brainer.
Count me as someone else who is tired of the carseat fear-mongering. You take a risk every time you walk out the door. Driving is dangerous–the added protection of a carseat is vanishingly small, and those number crunchers who are convincing everyone they are a worthwhile investment work for companies that manufacture all these safety products. It’s a multi-million dollar industry.
But so many moms get nuts about the car seats. Sometimes I almost feel like they are trying to prove what excellent and protective moms they are, trying to one-up everyone else about how strict they are about their car seat use. Give me a break. For one thing, half of these super moms then get on their cell phones the minute they drive off, which, statistically, blows any advantage they have just given their kid out of the water–no car seat is going to protect your kid as much as hanging up your damn phone is going to.
Also, I am not impressed that you are so protective. Everyone’s protective these days–too protective. Which is why we are raising so many useless, fearful kids who don’t know how to do anything fun or interesting.
I never rode in a carseat as a kid. I also was white-water canoeing (‘rafting’ is for pansies) at 8 and tying my own belay lines while rappelling off cliffs at 10. I’m s stronger woman for it–my parents would probably be called in for child abuse these days.
I surely get the exasperation. Every time I lay my 8 month old baby down (on his back, naturally) for bed in his bare empty fixed side crib, I think wistfully how sweet it would be to tuck him in and hand him a teddy bear instead of a small strawberry shaped teether (bpa and phalate free if course). I know you all mean well, but sometimes all these recommendations replace just a little joy with fear.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
You will do what you do to live your life the best way you see fit. For some, data/science/recommendations aren’t compelling enough to change behavior. For others, data is.
If you’re a data person, here are two studies highlighting data w benefit of booster seats in preventing injuries. This may be some of the math you’re discussing: the odds of injury were 59% lower for kids in a booster seat compared to kids in a seat belt (4-7 years-olds).
1. Durbin DR, Elliott MR, Winston FK. Belt positioning booster seats and reduction
in risk of injury among children in vehicle
crashes. JAMA. 2003;289(21):2835–2840
2. Arbogast KB, Jermakian JS, Kallan MJ,
Durbin DR. Effectiveness of belt positioning
booster seats: an updated assessment.
There are also studies showing that booster seats only reduce the incidence of injury–they don’t, in fact, reduce the injury of death: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19959729
There have also been studies that show that it is impossible for car seats to be used ‘perfectly.’ They are tested using dummies, and real children aren’t dummies. For example, real children, if you put them in a seat with giant side wings around their head, will hunch forward because they are people and they like to look around them. The hunched forward posture can increase their chance of injury in an accident.
I actually do “statistics and scientific research for a living”, and I even have a PhD. So, I’m pretty sure my numbers are right, and very sure that I have made the right choice for me and my family. You are free to run your own numbers and make your own choice.
Here are some of the numbers I look at:
“At 100% child safety seat use for children under age 5, an estimated… additional 63 could have been saved in 2009.”
There were 22.1 Million kids aged 0-5 in America in 2009.
63 out of 22.1 Million is 0.0003%! That’s a small number! There are a lot of other things out there much more likely to harm your child. Let’s spend our energy on those rather than stricter car seat legislation.
And most of those 63 additional deaths are due to not using a restraint at all, or using one improperly.
I’m not advocating for reckless abandon. I said before that I use mine, and I install them meticulously. But, I think we have reached diminishing returns on car seat safety. Let’s put our efforts elsewhere.
And, “seething” is exactly the word I meant to use, just ask my husband. 🙂
There are lots of other areas we should be focusing on, you say? Thank you, because that’s precisely my point. This area has already been studied and proven. Bottom line: It’s safer (even if by a small statistically significant margin) to follow the height/weightrecommendations when it comes to seating your children in a vehile. We agree on the fact that there are LOTS of places to direct your seething anger. . . instead of wasting it on fighting this. I’ll admit, there are gray areas of parenting, but this? C’mon. What is the point of “seething” over a recommendation (it isn’t even a LAW, so if you are that opposed to it, just don’t do it) made by a panel of experts.
Also, statistics can also take you only so far. If you are a parent of one of those 63 children (your numbers), I guarantee you, putting your kid in a booster or having them rear facing until they are two (or older!)m or in the backseat until they are 93!!!! (clearly, exaggerating here) isn’t something to get worked up over. Just ask Kyle’s parents… or anyone else that has lost their child in an accident where a different car seat/seating choice might have made a difference. . . if only they’d known.
All this is about is education and letting people know the FACTS. Seattle Mama Doc (and others) are just putting the word out there as a public service. What you do as a parent with that information is up to you, but stop putting down people that are only looking out for others by calling it fear mongering.
I had a hard time staying pregnant, so I have lost nine children (during pregnancy – so I cannot even imagine losing a child after birth). This is something that will stay with me for a lifetime. If there was something I could do to save my children’s life, even it was “inconvenient” for me, I would have done it in a heartbeat. I guess that’s why I don’t mind putting my infants, on their backs, in a barren crib or keeping my three year old rear-facing, or feeding my children organic dairy and as many of the “dirty dozen” fruits and veggies as I can. No, I don’t keep my kids in a bubble (we’ve even been known to freqent a bouncy house place! :)), but I do the things that I CAN do to keep them safe. There is so much we cannot control as parents. Why mess with the controllables?
(And by the way, I sincerely do respect your rights as a mom to do what you feel is right for your family. I do the same. We might differ on our outcomes, but we both do want what is right and best for our babies.)
I just want to note that Sunshine Radian seats fit 3 across in a sedan. You can also fit two radians and a highback booster across in a sedan, the configuration I use for carpools in my car.
I’m lucky that all but 2 of our friends follow similar standards as we do. If their child rides with us, they use our kids seats because they are familiar with the model and installation. Similar if my child rides with someone else. When our daughter reached age 5 and 40lbs, we made the concession of a highback booster for local trips — short trip, not highway speeds, no chance of her falling asleep and slumping on or under the belt. I’ve ridden in cars with friends where their similar age/size child rode in a backless booster for a long highway trip and I was constantly correcting her posture and belt position when she fell asleep. The booster laws haven’t made me afraid; they’ve made me relieved that more people might secure their children in the car.
Final note: it’s worthwhile to prevent injury not just death. My friend’s son didn’t die because he was in a booster. But he would not have fractured his skull and spent 1 solid month in the hospital if he’d been harnessed. It’s nice to have the extra highback booster in the trunk to drop off with my kid if she’s getting a ride from someone else. If they can’t fit the seat in their car, they really don’t have room for my kid.
Any opinions on this situation? We have a small relative who has surpassed the age requirements of Washington state law, but is well under the height and weight requirements outlined in that same law. We believe height and weight is the more important determinant of whether a booster seat should be used. Are we on track? A booster seat is likely going to be a new concept for this little girl as her parents have not been attentive to this safety issue.
My opinion, Allison, is that you should mind your own business, and dedicate your time and attention to all the children who are in real danger. Maybe volunteer at a shelter for homeless families, or donate to charities that help feed starving children, or take in a foster child. Or would that be too much work, and not as fun as lecturing your law-abiding family member?
Having nearly been hit TWICE in the past 60 days by MOMS on their cellphones while DRIVING IN A SCHOOL ZONE, I could not agree more with you. Both times the moms had meticlously strapped their kids safely in car their seats but then they had no regard to anyone elses safety whatsoever when they started talking on their phones while driving.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
Weight and size are more important (from safety standpoint) than age. However, having a small 16 year-old in a booster, for example, is never going to happen! There is a cost to infantalizing smaller adolescents– so you have to weigh risks/benefits of situation. Open conversations about safety and the situation WITH a teen are a great way to start. Come to decisions together.
\If there was something I could do to save my children’s life, even it was “inconvenient” for me, I would have done it in a heartbeat. \
The thing that maddens me is that the thing that most moms won’t do to save their child’s lives is hang up their phones while driving. The children saved by car seats are dwarfed by the number of people killed because of people, including those super-protective moms who are just so strict about their car seats–talking and texting instead of keeping their eyes on the road.
Dr Beth Ebel says
I LOVE having active kids who are doing sports, swimming, rafting, bicycling and rock climbing. It is NOT our job as parents to protect children from ALL risk. Instead it IS our job to identify the important risks and take a few simple safety steps while kids are enjoying these activities. Key steps are consistent car seat/booster seat/seat belt use, and helmets. For me, these are “non-negotiable”.
The leading cause of death for kids is injury, and for school age kids it is often when they are riding in cars. Booster seats reduce the risk of head injury and serious injury by 50%, EVEN for older kids (8 to 12 years) who are not big enough for a seat belt. A booster seat keeps the child positioned (and comfortable) so that the vehicle safety features can do their job in the event of a crash. Booster seats are considerably safer than adult seat belts for serious frontal and side crashes. A booster seats raises up the child so that her head is protected by the side-curtain airbag and is out of the path of an incoming bumper; the seat belt is re-positioned across the strong bones instead of soft organs which can rupture.
Keep in mind that car seats are also required by state law ($124 ticket per child if not appropriately restrained).
So bring your kids with you, go on adventures, enjoy the natural beauty around us, play sports, and teach your children well. It is all about good consistent parenting (every trip, every time) and showing kids how to make good choices in the car.
Beth Ebel, MD, MSc, MPH
Pediatrician, Seattle Children’s Hospital
Director, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center
University of Washington
Kathleen O says
What about the kids whose parents are working, who are precluded from after school activities, much less exciting rafting adventures with neighbors or friends, because strict car seat and booster seat laws essentially outlaw carpooling? All of the articles I’ve read recently about carpooling and car seats are about making sure your 8 or 10 year old uses a booster when carpooling – does life start at 8? Kids at 4, 5, 6, are going to school, sports, activities – or they could be, if they could only catch a ride with the neighbors.
I’m actually pretty strict about car seat use with my own kid, and intend to continue to be as he grows, but pretending that there are no costs, and that car seat use and going on adventures, playing sports, etc. aren’t mutually exclusive, is just not realistic.
But understand me: I am not saying I don’t use car seats. I am saying their efficacy is overblown and I am tired of moms acting as if being so strict about carseats is some gold badge of momdom.
You say carseats reduce serious injury by 50%? Great! But they don’t reduce death at all.
But talking on your cell phone while driving increases your chance of getting in an accident BY FIVE TIMES. It far outstrips the risk reduction of a carseat. If you had to choose, you would be better off NOT using carseats at all and PUTTING DOWN YOUR PHONE. That is, mathematically, the more effective risk reduction strategy.
I struggle with the ‘older than 13’ to ride in the front seat part. I’m NOT short (5’9″ stocking footed) and 3 of my 6 children were taller than I at age 11. But with the law as it is now, they couldn’t ride in the front seat! Why?? They’ve all been taller than their grandma (5’3″) since roughly 4th or 5th grade…and they’ve asked why SHE could ride in front and they couldn’t.
And then there’s my dinky tiny 3rd percentile 7 year old, still constrained to a 5 point harness even though he’s in 1st grade. He’d love to be in a booster (or be out of a car seat/booster entirely, like some of his older siblings were [pre-extreme booster seat laws] at his age!), but in checking with several police officer friends and lawyers, we would be ticketed and wouldn’t win a challenge.
For those of us who drive older vehicles (no passenger airbag, no side curtain airbags), some of the reasons–boosters raise children up so they are protected by side curtain airbags–are pointless. My vehicle is large and heavy–no one would be in the path of an incoming bumper unless it was a semi or raised pickup. I resent the government’s continued intrusion on my parental decision making. I would still use booster seats–it’s just smart. But let me decide. And let my 7 year old use a booster seat. Please!