Determining when your child is booster seat ready can be something most parents neglect. I include myself in this… Once my eldest outgrew his toddler car seat, we invested in a booster cushion for him. He struggled with the adult safety belt in the back seat constantly moving over his neck and face which caused him discomfort. It’s something I made him live with, as there was no way I would let him sit without one. I’m a complete stiffler for kids being strapped in. I must admit, I didn’t do much research and went for the most affordable option when selecting a seat for him. As car seat safety to me meant having a seat belt on and that was it.
When Mandy from Pregnant in Cape Town asked me to join the #CarseatFullstop campaign, I had a huge mind set change. After reading countless articles regarding car seat safety and the devastating stats, I knew that things had to change. Danny’s safety while driving in the car meant moving him to an appropriate booster seat. And share with other moms who need to know these things before their child is booster seat ready!
How to know when your child is booster seat ready
The general rule of thumb is that your child is booster seat ready around 4 years old. There is a lot of debate around this, and overseas, they say they are only booster seat ready later… At the end of the day, your child must move to a booster seat when they outgrow their toddler seat. Other than 3 safe toddler seats that harness up to 25kg, all South African car seats only allow you to use the car seat harness up to 18kg or 105cm. After that, the harness may well fail in a crash. In South Africa, a large number of our children outgrow that harness around age 4. So booster seat ready or not they have to move.
The car seats that allow extended harnessing are two exclusively rear facing toddler seats, the BeSafe iZi Plus and the Volvo Maxway. There is also the forward-facing multistage Safeway Elegance, but this seat can only be used as with the harness up to 25kg IF your car has a top tether point.
What does a booster seat do?
The first thing you need to know about car seat safety is that seat belts in cars are designed for to fit an adult male of 1.5m or taller.
The job of the seat belt is to “catch” or support the body and transfer the forces of a crash to its strongest points. At the moment of impact, a person takes on the weight of the speed they are traveling times their body weight. So if you weigh 50kgs and you are traveling at 100kmph and you crash, your body weighs 5,000kgs in that moment. The seat belt therefore needs to be able to catch and hold your body with all of that weight… and transfer the crash force to your adult pelvis, chest and shoulder.
On a child, the chest belt sits over the vulnerable neck and the the lapbelt over the unprotected belly. At the moment of impact, the seat belt will do its job no matter what… transfering all the force to the belts…
A booster seat is designed to raise / boost a child up, so that the lap belt sits across the thighs and the shoulder strap stays firmly across the mid-shoulder and chest… Therefore protecting their neck and abdomen
A booster seat should offer support on the sides, protecting your child from side impact should get in an accident. It should also have additional padding, ensuring your child is both safe and comfortable. The head rest should always protected your child against whiplash and flying debris. So ensure that the booster seat you purchase has an extending back and headrest, and that it doesn’t require you remove the backrest at any point.
5 steps to check if your child is ready to use a seat belt without a booster seat
- The shoulder belt should sit in the middle between your child’s shoulder and neck.
- The lap belt should sit low across the upper thighs of your child.
- Your child’s back should be flush with the back rest of the car seat… With their bottom firmly where the back rest and seat meet.
- While your child is sitting flush with the back rest… Their knees should only bend past the edge of the seat and their feet should be flat on the floor.
- Your child should be able to sit comfortably in that position… Without moving, for as long as the car is moving.
We must remember that just because our children seem “so grown up”, doesn’t mean that they are. Their bodies are still growing and developing and need additional protection. Our children are our most cherished possessions, why would we not want them to be safe. Parents who use booster seats for their children reduce the chance of crash related injuries. There is no doubt that using car seats saves lives.
About the Author
Lindsay is a working mom to two of the most awesome little boys, Daniyal, 9 and Joshuah, 5. And she is expecting a baby girl any day now! She blogs over at Love Made Me, and she is a qualified Doula. She also works full time in a busy hospital.
Lindsay on Love Made Me
Love Made Me is a Parenting and Lifestyle blog for women and moms. I cover topics such as kids fashion, developmental milestones, challenges and experiences. I have a knack for gift ideas for kids and often share fun products to help make life easier. I’m practical, I’m real and I’m just an ok-ish Mom trying to survive the blessing of Motherhood.
Lindsay on #CarseatFullstop
The safety of our children’s lives should be our highest priorities. Using a car seat correctly is extremely effective and reduces the risk of your child’s death. I don’t understand the confusion. Want some more reading material:
You have the power to save a little life. One share, seen by one person, who straps in one child, saves a life. #CarseatFullstop