Plenty of parents drive children other than their own in carpools, but according to new study findings published in the February issue of Pediatrics, they don’t consistently use booster seats for these “guest passengers.”
In this particular study, about three-quarters of the 4- to 8-year-olds using a seat
belt were doing so in accordance with the laws in their state. But state laws don’t always comply with the national recommendations.
National recommendations encourage the use of booster seats until a child reaches 57 inches, the average height of an 11-year-old.
State booster seat laws were associated with higher safety seat use, regardless of the carpooling factor, even though half of parents admit to not knowing the age cited in their state booster seat law. Another 20 percent guessed incorrectly.
So, take a guess. What’s the law for booster seats in Arizona?
Arizona is one of only 3 states that currently does not have a law requiring children to be restrained in a booster seat, says Sara Bode, M.D., a pediatrician and Arizona AAP member who practices at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Current law only requires car seats for children 5 years or younger.
Part of the lower incidence of use may be due to a lack of state booster seat laws, says Bode. There is a current house bill this legislative session that has passed initial committee hearings. House Bill 2452 would mandate booster seats for children up to age 8 or until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.
Booster seats are just as important as infant and toddler seats, says Bode. They allow correct positioning of the seat belt across the chest and hips.
Kids can easily slip out of a seat belt during a crash or can suffer serious or fatal injuries to the neck and abdomen. In her work at Phoenix Children’s, Bode has seen many children who have experienced trauma from a motor vehicle injury.
“I personally have taken care of a family who suffered from a motor vehicle crash,” says Bode. “Their 5 year-old wasn’t properly restrained. As a result, she suffered a serious abdominal injury requiring surgery and a prolonged hospital stay.”
Kids who are seated in a booster seat in the rear of the car are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash as compared to those using a seat belt alone, according to data gathered by SafeKidsUSA, a nationwide network of organizations working to prevent unintentional childhood injury.
Study authors conclude that social norms may play a big role in booster seat use, too. As far as carpools go, there are inherent difficulties with the transfer of car seats between parents and carpool drivers, says Bode. It’s just one more thing for parents to do during a busy time of the day.
How do we change the social norm? Bode suggests that daycares and schools could play a large role in educating parents on the importance of use as well as providing expectations for proper restraint, and a designated area to store booster seats during the school day.
Plenty of community resources are available to help parents use booster seats properly. Check out our RAK Car Seat Safety Local Resource Page here.