Kids in Carpools Often Aren't Using Proper Safety Restraints

Booster seat safetyBooster seat safetyA new study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics in its February issue found that while 76 percent of parents with children ages 4 to 8 use proper child safety seats when their kids are in the family car, when it comes to carpooling that number drops by quite a bit. In fact, of the 64 percent of parents in the study that said they carpool and have children who require booster seats 79 percent of them always request that other parents use a booster seat for their child, but only 55 percent of them said that they always have their child use a booster seat when they have friends without one in their own car. So what are the laws and why are so many people breaking them?

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Every state's laws vary on child safety seat usage, but the fines can be fairly hefty and may even include a court date if you get caught not following them. There are only two states that don't require booster seat usage for children over age three and they are Florida and South Dakota. All of the other states vary as to what age, weight, and height children can move out of the booster seat and use just an adult safety belt. The Governor's High Safety Association offers a complete list of regulations by state.

I live in Rhode Island and the law here states that my child must be at least 7 years old, weigh at least 80 pounds and be at least 57 inches tall. Chances are that my son is going to surpass the height and weight requirements before his seventh birthday, but I will keep him in the booster if need be. However, I think I know why parents sometimes let their children ride without a booster seat when there are additional children in the car. If there are more than two kids in the car it is a total nightmare to get three car and/or booster seats across the back seat of an average car!

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Just this past weekend, I had to drive my two children and my nephew to skating lessons. It took no fewer than five minutes to get the three of them buckled into their booster seats going both to and from the rink because the seats are so wide that they cover the safety belt latch so it basically requires some contortionism to achieve. I drive a Volvo wagon so it's not exactly like I have a tiny car or one that isn't meant for families. It's a science and a juggling act of kids in and out of the car and sitting forward, etc. before everyone gets safely buckled in. I was incredibly close to just buckling my son into the middle seat without a booster as we were only driving about a mile and through residential streets, but I didn't.

Personally, if it came down to being short a booster seat or not being able to fit them all in, I would be most likely to have my child be the one who doesn't use a booster because I'm not going to add any additional risk to someone else's child that I'm caring for. I'm not opposed to the safety regulations for child safety as I certainly don't want my children or anyone else's children to be injured unnecessarily, but I sure do wish that the car seat manufactures and the car manufacturers would work more closely together to make it a lot easier for the parents to provide safe seating for their kids. In fact, it would be really fabulous if all car manufacturers were required to put built-in booster seats in the cars and then we'd never be short a booster seat at all.

This post was written by Sarah Fernandez.

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