Booster Seat Recommendations

booster seat recommendations

and other updated crash stats…

Recently the National Highway Traffic Safe Administration (NHTSA) released updated data on usage and booster seat recommendations based on their 2015 National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats (NSUBS).

The primary purpose of the biannual survey is to estimate booster seat use among 4- to 7-year-old children. The survey also provides estimates on restraint use for all children under 13 and the extent children are “prematurely graduated” to restraint types that are inappropriate for them based on age, height and weight.

“When children are not buckled up or are riding in a seat that isn’t used correctly, their safety is in jeopardy,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “You can act by making sure your kids are buckled up and in the right car seats for their age and size.”

booster seat recommendationsThe NSUBS found:

  • Booster seat use among 4- to 7-year-old children was decreased slightly to 44.5% in 2015.
    • 17.9% were properly restrained in child car seats; the percentage of children 4 to 7 restrained in forward-facing car seat decreased slightly from 20.3% in 2013.
  • An appropriate child restraint for 4- to 7-year-old children is either a forward-facing car seat or a belt positioning device like a booster seat. However, the NSUBS found that 37.4% of children 4 to 7 years old in the United States were not being properly restrained
    • 25.8% were restrained by seat belts
    • 11.6% were unrestrained
  • Restraint use among 8- to 12-years-old girls decreased significantly to 82.6% in 2015 from 90.5% in 2013.
  • Restraint use among children 8 to 12 years old whose height is between 37 to 53 inches decreased significantly to 83.4% in 2015 from 90.0% in 2013.
  • Premature graduation to restraint types that are not appropriate for children’s age, height, and weight rose for children 1 to 3 years old as about 13.6% were prematurely graduated to booster seats; a significant increase from 9.3% in 2013.

What are NHTSA’s booster seat recommendations?

The most important of the booster seat recommendations is to use one. Even big kids need to be safe in cars!

NHTSA recommends children 4 to 7 to remain in a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness until the child reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the seat. At which time, the child can move into a belt positioning booster. (There are other belt positioning devices like the Ride Safer travel vest. However the RideSafer is certified and can be used for smaller children in lieu of a forward-facing car seat as well, especially helpful as a secondary seat for travel or carpools.)

Remember, in Sweden children remain rear facing until 4 years of age at which time they are turned forward facing in a booster seat. Sweden’s injury and death rate is significantly lower.

Once a child is in a belt-positioning booster seat (or other such device), the child should use that device until the child can pass the 5-step seat belt fit test. This usually doesn’t happen until a child is 4’9″ in height, which is typically when a child is somewhere between the ages of 8 and 12.

One of the common times booster seat recommendations are neglected is when parents are carpooling or bringing friends along to day activities.

Why follow this recommendation?

However, the 2015 NSUBS found that 15.6% of children 8 to 12 years old were unrestrained. Unfortunately, this is an increase from the 10.6% who were unrestrained in 2013.

Booster seats reportedly reduce the risk for serious injury by 45% for children aged 4 to 8 years old compared to using just the seat belt.

RideSafer travel booster seat recommendationsBooster seats range in price from $20 to $250. They come in backless or highback styles. We don’t recommend one over the other. Backless boosters generally provide better lap belt fit while highbacks generally do a better job of positioning shoulder belts. The booster seat alternative, RideSafer, costs $145-159. It provides both a good lap belt fit and shoulder belt positioning by bringing the seat belt down to fit the child.

Read the full NSUBS.

Other Crash Statistics for 2015

  • The nation lost 35,092 people in crashes on U.S. roadways during 2015, an increase from 32,744 in 2014. The 7.2 percent increase is the largest percentage increase in nearly 50 years. The largest percentage increase previously was an 8.1 percent increase from 1965 to 1966.
  • In 2015, the use of
    • seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 13,941 lives of occupants 5 and older,
      • if all unrestrained passengers used a seat belt an additional 2,804 lives could have been saved
    • frontal air bags saved an estimated 2,573 lives of occupants 13 and older
    • child restraints saved an estimated 266 child occupants 4 and younger
    • and motorcycle helmets saved 1,772 lives
      • if all motorcyclists used a helmet an additional 740 lives could have been saved.

Read the report for more information and booster seat recommendations.

We want to know, is your 8 to 12 year old still in a booster seat? Or will your child? Share your comments below.

By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004

Copyright 2016 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

© Eli Meir Kaplan for Home Front Communications National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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1 Comment
  • Shea Anderson
    Posted at 16:19h, 29 January Reply

    My 9, 6 and 3 year olds all still use britax 5 point harness seats with latch. My little guy was rear facing till 3. I love them too much to risk it over something so simple as a car seat. :)

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