Thursday, September 09, 2010

Car Seat Safety

Just today I realized that I'm going to have to, finally, remove the five point harness from my very tall six year old's car seat and use the seat as a high-backed booster. I'm not happy about this. You would think I would be doing cartwheels, as most people chuck their kid's giant car seats as soon as possible to jump for a lighter/easier model, but not me.

For me, for us, the right choice is to keep my children in the safest seats we can manage for as long as possible. I take the statistic that the number one cause of death for children is auto accidents very seriously. Some may say I'm over-protective, or just a big fat worrier, but I'll take it. I've been chided for my desire to use monstrous car seats for my children when it "isn't necessary". But you know what? I don't really care. As far as I am concerned, they are absolutely, unquestionably necessary.

As parents we all take the precautions with regards to our children's safety that feel right to US, and this is one of mine. I also feel like I have statistics on my side here, but again, the bottom line is, we do what works for our own family.

So why, you ask, do I care so much? If the law states a child can be in a booster seat when they have "outgrown their forward-facing car seat" (at least in the state of WA) then why isn't that good enough? As far as I can tell WA state has laws for how long a child needs to be rear-facing (one year AND 20 lbs) and then another law that says how long they need to be in a booster (until they are either 4'9" or 8 years old) but none that specifically states when you can lose the harness in favor of a booster. Not that I would pay attention to it, since the laws are not nearly strict enough in my not-so humble opinion.

If you can, take a gander at this article that a CPST suggested to me when I asked for a good read on why it's safer to have children in 5 point harnesses as long as possible (vs just a booster). The article states that the benefits of a 5 point harness are that:

* The crash forces are spread over the skeletal body over five points rather than three.

* The crash forces are spread to the strongest parts of the child's body.

* Forward head excursion (the distance the head is thrown forward) are lessened.

* The child is secured in the correct seating position rather than being able to wiggle around, lean forward etc. (Sybil's note: as well as slump over when they sleep!)

It deserves to be mentioned that it can be less safe for a child to be in a seat with a 5 point harness if it doesn't fit correctly. For instance, if the top straps are set lower than the child's shoulders then it could cause spinal compression in an accident (info credited to my CPST friend).

Both of my girls are in Graco Nautilus seats (my girls' seats are bright pink and covered in flowers). They were purchased fairly close together, so we had to throw down a big chunk of money for them all at once. Before these seats they were both in Britax Marathon's from birth. Iris's expired around the same time she outgrew it and Eloise's we were able to sell for a little money that went towards her new seat. I have extremely tall children who have/will outgrow the height of the seat far before the weight, which happens to be why Iris needed another five point harness seat after the Marathon.

I would love to rattle on a few more paragraphs about the importance of installing car seats correctly and buckling children in properly, but I'll save that for another time.


  1. I was just talking about this with Tara from Feels Like Home last night. The Britax Frontier has shoulder slots that are about 3" higher than the Nautilus and then it turns into a booster. It's more expensive than just buying a booster at this point but if you would rather keep her harnessed for longer, it's an option. :)

    Z is in a Britax Regent which (sadly) has been discontinued... but we love it and it will keep her harnessed for a good long while. It makes me so happy to see other people talking about the benefits of "extended harnessing."

    Also, and I didn't know this until recently, but apparently you're supposed to pull the seat belt out until it locks each time you buckle her into a booster. So you might look into that if you go straight to the booster. :)

  2. ditto the britax regent. we have one that we found (new) for isa and it's awesome. i am hoping to find one for sylvi when she needs it, but i am guessing they will be long gone by then.

  3. Dexy turned 4 in June. She's always been tall for her age, and she hit the 40" and 40# mark WELL before she turned 4, though I did follow the state guidelines and wait until her official birthday to transition her from a Britax Marathon 5-pt harness car seat to her new booster.

    I use the Clek booster seat. They have a backless one (which is the one I use) and a full back one that can be split into a backless version once the child gets taller... the best part of these seats? They have LATCH.

    I haven't found one other booster seat on the market that has LATCH. Not even Britax. For me, expecting or relying on a booster seat to be held in place entirely upon the weight of the child sitting in it is NOT good enough.

    I wanted something a little (no, a lot) more secure. Something that won't slide all over the place with my kid in it, and something that SHE can't slide all over the place in, as some kind of silly game (which I've seen other kids her age do).

    Anyway, the Clek seat works for me. And gosh, it's sure nice not having that behemoth Britax seat taking up 1/2 the real estate in the back seat anymore either.



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