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Car Seats Advised For Older Children

By Michelle Mears-Gerst

The number one killer of children ages 1 to 12 in the United States is car crashes according to the National Highway Traffic Administration. In many states the laws allow children to ride in a car without a car seat or booster seat if they weigh 60 pounds or are eight years or older.

However, these children are statistically at even a higher risk if taken out of the protective seats because the seatbelts are designed in a car for adults. The best way to protect youth is to put them in the right seat, at the right time, and use it the right way according to the NHTA.

Car seat manufacturers in recent years have updated their booster seats to fit children who are heavier and older. A few short years ago it was difficult to find booster seats to go up to 80 or 100 pounds but the market today offers plenty of choices making it easier for parents to find seats their children can ride in up to age 12.

“It breaks my heart to see children not in a booster seat. The seatbelt can hurt them and if the kids don’t like the way a shoulder belt fits they often try to place the shoulder strap behind their backs,” said Kirstin Wall-Rowe a mom, zoologist and owner of

Wall-Rowe’s sister placed her seatbelt behind her back and was involved in a car accident resulting in permanent brain injury. An injury that may have been preventable if she wore the seatbelt properly.

Wall-Rowe thinks parents are risking their children’s lives by taking them out of booster seats when the adult seat belts do not properly fit.

It is advised to check your state’s DMV website to find out about the age, height and weight requirements in each state but in California children under the age of eight must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat. If the child is under age eight but are 4′ 9″ or taller they may be secured by a safety belt in the back seat. Children eight years and over shall be properly secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint system or safety belt.

Children between ages of 8 and 12 are even more at risk of injury in a car accident if they are using only car manufactured seatbelts and if the seatbelts do not properly fit their weight and height.

Desiree Eaglin a mother of three children living in Southern California has a website called Sarcastic, Funny and Brutally Honest at Her work often requires her to take her children with her so safety on the go is always on her mind.

“My oldest child is seven, he only weighs 52 pounds and is 3’9”,” said Eaglin. “I plan to keep him in a booster seat as long as I can and as long as he likes it.”

Sarah Tilton a BRITAX Child Passenger Safety Advocate has been an active CPS Technician since 2002 and Instructor since 2004. Tilton is the spokesperson for BRITAX within the advocacy community participating in child-passenger safety activities at a local, state and national level.

Tilton said that BRITAX offers the following car seats for children over 60 pounds: Frontier 90 or Pinnacle 90, both with CLICKTIGHT  – both go to 90 lbs. with internal harness then convert to a belt positioning booster up to 120 lbs.

Stephanie Watkins-Taylor also a mother of three in Avon, Ohio plans to keep her youngest two in booster seats as long as possible.

“I like that my booster seats have a place where the seat belt is held in the right place. I have had boosters without this feature and my oldest son kept putting the seat belt behind him so it didn’t cut into his neck,” said Watkins.

Tilton who also serves on the new product development, technical writing and marketing teams at BRITAX said mothers like Eaglin and Watkins-Taylor, and Wall-Rowe can easily find booster seats today to grow with their older children.

“The maximum weight capacity has increased slightly from 80-100 lbs. in many brands,” said Tilton.

“Since it is about the seat belt fitting properly and not every 4’-9” tall child’s stature is the same, some children may be heavier, shorter builds will require a booster seat for a longer period of time until the vehicle seat belt fits appropriately.”

Tilton said the following list is a good rule of thumb to follow when considering moving your older child from a booster seat to an adult seat belt. To be able to fit an adult seat belt, a child must:

1. Be tall enough to sit without slouching,

2. Keep his/her back and buttocks against the vehicle seat back,

3. Keep his/her knees completely bent over the front edge of the vehicle seat,

4. Keep his/her feet flat on the floor,

5. Be able to stay comfortably seated this way, AND

6. The vehicle seat belt must be positioned correctly across the child’s hips and shoulder/middle of the chest.