I'm not really happy with this paper so I thought I would beg help from anyone on here who would like to critique it before the final draft is due...anyone?
Boosters are for Big Kids: Using a 5-point Harness Beyond the Age of 4
Looking back on my childhood I cannot recall a time that I was in a car seat. I know that I must have been as an infant, but as my memory spans back to anywhere between the ages of 3-6 I remember being in a lap belt-and often sharing the same seat belt with my sister who sat beside me. This was not an unusual scenario for that point in time. I am sure most of my peers have similar memories. It is likely for this reason that I get inquisitive and even puzzled expressions when I comment that my daughter, who is four, will be remaining in a seat with a 5-pt harness as long as the seat will allow for it (her particular model will harness up to 85lbs). “Isn’t she old enough for a booster?” is the first question I am asked-and likely the one you, the reader, have in mind now. The answer is both yes and no. Washington State law requires the use of a booster seat for children between the ages of 4-8 who are 40-60lbs and below 4ft 9inches in height. ("Knight Ridder Tribune Business News") This is the minimum
requirement by law and one that needs to be revised further. While boosters are a valuable asset to the world of child safety, they only do their job for children who are ready to be in boosters and many children are not.
In order for a child to be safe in a booster the seatbelt must be positioned properly. The lap belt should be fitted snugly across the upper thy and not on the child’s stomach or mid-section. The shoulder belt should fit across the child’s shoulder-not down by their arm or even worse-across their neck. ("CPSafety") Obviously height (specifically torso height) plays a key role in whether or not a child is ready to be in a booster seat. Yet there is no mention of a minimum height requirement in the state laws, only the height at which they can legally ride without a booster.
Another determining factor which is commonly overlooked is the maturity of the child. This has nothing to do with intellect or emotional maturity but rather whether or not they can sit properly in a booster seat for the full length of time that they are riding in it. “It is also important to take the temperament and maturity level of your child into consideration. To sit in a booster seat, the child must be capable of sitting up without slouching or leaning over, keeping the belts in place, and staying buckled. If your child is unable to do so (whether because of age, maturity or personality), a higher weight restraint should be considered as the next step.” (“CPSafety”) My 4-year-old can’t even sit still at the dinner table, let alone a long car ride. In fact I have yet to meet a child out of kindergarten who can. To illustrate this point I did observations of children of different ages seated in boosters in a non-moving vehicle for 15 minutes to see if they could do so without manipulating the belt path in a way that would make the booster unsafe. They were allowed to interact with others in the car and to hold conversations as well.
The first child I observed was my 4 year old. We went to Babies R Us and used one of the backless display booster seats. They have a model backseat on display as well. The first thing I noticed was that the seatbelt path was wrong. I couldn’t get the lap belt to stay on her upper thighs-it kept creeping up to her stomach. This would pose the risk of internal organ damage during a crash. Also the shoulder belt rode to high-across her neck instead of shoulder. She is not a short child. Actually she is quite tall for her age in size 6 clothing. I wondered how “average” sized 4 year olds could even begin to fit properly in a booster seat. I observed her for 15 minutes. She fidgeted and complained that she was uncomfortable and at times would slouch to the side which would further alter the seatbelt path.
The second child was a 5 year old who normally sits in a 5-point harness in the car. For the observation we used his sister’s backless booster. The first thing that I noticed is that he had it positioned improperly. The lap belt was up over his abdomen and the shoulder strap sat across his neck. I tried repositioning it to see if he could obtain a proper fit but he just wasn’t tall enough. It is possible that with a belt positioning booster he may have been able to be restrained safely. As the observation continued however, he fidgeted, manipulated the position of the seatbelt and at one point sat on his knees in the booster. Music was turned on in the car and he was given action figures to entertain himself with in hopes that he might sit still. Not only are these activities extremely dangerous in regards to the child’s safety-but they are distracting to the driver as well and thus pose a risk to everyone in the car.
The third child observed was 6 ˝ and also in a backless booster. She has comfortably in the booster and the lap belt sat across her upper thigh. The shoulder belt fit properly across her chest from hip to shoulder when she sat up straight. She was able to sit still and did not intentionally manipulate the seatbelt. The only time she was improperly restrained was when she was handed an electronic game system to play with. She then slouched over to the side and used the arm rest to prop herself up. The result of which was that the shoulder strap sat across her chest and over her upper arm. With a high-backed booster she may have been able to sit more comfortably without altering the seatbelt path in an unsafe manner.
My observation suggested that the age at which a child has acquired both the physical and emotional components to be safely restrained in a booster is somewhere between the age of six and seven—2-3 years older than the minimum required by law. This information is not new to the world of boosters. In an About.com guide, Heather Corley states “…the child must be able to sit in the proper position and be able to stay there
in order to be safe in a booster seat. This means no leaning forward, sideways, slouching, or wiggling out of the shoulder portion of the seatbelt. The seatbelt cannot protect a child who is not in the proper position. Most children cannot be trusted to sit properly until at least 4 years old. Many parents find that their child is actually much older than 4 before they can be expected to sit still in a booster.”
The tragic thing is that many parents believe that once their child hits 40lbs, a booster is their only option. Boosters on shelves in the store are advertised as being appropriate for children as light as 30lbs and costs as low as $20. For a family in a financial bind it can be all too tempting to go the cheaper route. After all, there aren’t many seats that will harness a child past 40lbs…or are there? The CPSafety website lists 18 seats available today that will keep a child in a 5-point harness anywhere from 50-85 pounds. Though the high end seats can cost as much as $400, there are choices available (such as the Graco Nautilus which harnesses up to 65lbs) available on the market for as little as $150. Even the more expensive seats have features that make them worth it. For example: The Britax Frontier 85 which retails at $279.99. While most car seats expire 6 years after their manufacture date-this seat can be used up to 9 years from the day it is made. That is approximately 3285 days not including leap years. Divide the price by this number and you are paying less than nine cents to ensure your child’s safety.
Why is a 5-point harness safer? “The 5-point harness spreads crash forces over more points on a child's body, lessening the potential force any one part of the body must take in a crash. If your child's harnessed car seat is used with a top tether, he or she can benefit from a reduction in head excursion during a crash, which translates to fewer and less severe head and neck injuries.” (Corley) This is an important feature in a child restrain system, as motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries for people under the age of 65. ("National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. ")
Another testament to the superiority of the 5-point harness over a booster seat is the fact that NASCAR and other professional racers have 5 or even 7-point harnesses installed into their racing vehicles, as opposed to the standard 3-point harness you see in your every day car. These systems are far superior to a standard 3-point system when it comes to distribution of weight and especially in the event of a roll-over accident. John Gibson offers this advice to racers “A lot of readers might be thinking right now, What's the point of this? My seatbelts are fine. A seatbelt is a seatbelt. Let me go on the record as saying that this is very dangerous thinking. Don't have the attitude that you are invincible. The responsibility rests upon you and you alone to ensure that your car is as safe as it can be. The seatbelts you choose to run are the only equipment that will prevent you from flying out of your seat during an accident.”
Too many parents have thoughts similar to what Gibson describes. “A seatbelt is a seatbelt.” “The law says it is okay, so it must be safe” “If it’s good enough to protect me it will protect my child” “We didn’t even have car seats growing up, and we turned out okay” “It is only a short ride, what could happen.” Unlike Gibson’s readers however, it is not your own life you are playing with. It is the life of your child, why risk it? Why not go the extra mile to protect something so valuable, so irreplaceable? In my opinion it is better to be “safe” than sorry. Is my child ready for a booster? Absolutely not.
Corley, Heather. "Should I Move My Toddler to a Booster Seat?." About.com Guide
. About.com, Web. 09 Apr 2010. <http://babyproducts.about.com/od/carseats/qt/baby_booster.htm>.
Gibson, John. "Racing Seatbelt Guide-The Science of Seatbelts." Circle Track
"Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Fact Sheet." National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 09/07/06. Web. 10 Apr 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/scifacts.htm
"The Best Booster Seat." CPSafety
. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr 2010.
"Tell us what you think: Booster seat law to change. " Knight Ridder Tribune Business
24 May 2007 ProQuest Newsstand, ProQuest. Web. 17 Apr. 2010.
The format came out wonky in that post. Ignore the format