Many Kids Need Booster Sears Beyond Age 8

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Maryland's upgraded child passenger safety law requires children under age 8 (unless the child is 4'9" or weighs more than 65 lbs) to ride in a booster seat or other appropriate safety seat, but Maryland Kids In Safety Seats (KISS) reports that many children are still not ready for adult seat belts even after reaching that age.

KISS, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's (DHMH) statewide child passenger safety program, seeks to educate parents and caregivers on the best safety seat practices to protect their children.

"Knowing the right time to switch a child from a booster seat to a seat belt is often confusing," said DHMH Secretary John M. Colmers. "There's not an easy 'one size fits all' answer. The Maryland KISS program is a great resource to address parents' questions."

"Children should only graduate out of a booster seat once they are able to correctly fit in adult seat belts," said Tracy Whitman, KISS coordinator for DHMH. To know if the adult seat belts will fit properly, KISS recommends the "Seat Belt Fit Test." The seat belt fits correctly when:


* the child can sit all the way back, with his/her knees bent over the vehicle seat;

* the lap belt lies across the hips and below the belly; and

* the shoulder belt is centered across the chest and resting on the collarbone—not across the neck.

Research clearly shows that booster seats reduce the risk of injuries from vehicle crashes by 59 percent, compared to the use of adult seat belts alone. The seats 'boost' smaller children up so that adult seat belts fit the child correctly. In this way, boosters help prevent internal injuries, neck, head and spinal cord injuries, and even ejection and death in the event of a crash.

"Booster seat safety is being improved with the introduction of side impact protection in some high back boosters," said Whitman. "And, to enhance comfort, many manufacturers are creating booster seats that can lengthen or widen to expand as the child grows. Boosters are available in a variety of styles to suit children of all sizes and ages and many now feature 'cool' extras that appeal to children, like built-in reading lights, cup holders, armrests, and pockets for video games or books," said Whitman. "Letting older children help choose the seat makes them more likely to use it."

"Booster seats don't have to be expensive," said Whitman. "All brands have to meet the same federal motor vehicle safety standards." If cost is an obstacle, parents can consider a car seat loaner program. Maryland Kids In Safety Seats has 24 sites around the state where parents may be able to rent car or booster seat for a small fraction of the cost to purchase a seat.