New Research Finds Kids Should Stay in a Booster Seat Until Age 12

In light of new crash test research, researchers now recommend leaving children in booster seats until age twelve. According to The Daily Mail, trauma experts say the guidelines for child car restraint “are putting kids at risk of life-threatening injuries.”

The group behind the research, the RACV, recommends that parents leave their children in booster seats until age twelve or 145 centimeters (approximately 4 foot, 9 inches), a height “most children reach at 10-12 years old.” The accompanying footage shows a crash test dummy in an adult seat belt “lurching forward as its body folds in two after a car going just 56 Kilometers an hour [35 miles per hour] impacted with another vehicle.”

Professor Warwick Teague, a trauma specialist supervisor from Australia, told 7 News that kids “are now at significant risk of injury because the seat belt is not going to fit them correctly.” In his region of Australia, the laws only require kids to stay in booster seats until age seven, just like in many U.S. states, but experts say this is too young. As illustrated in the following video, when seat belts do not fit kids properly, the belt “will rise up across the neck, and that produces potentially life threatening injuries to the spine and the ligaments around the spine,” according to professor Teague.

In the United States, laws regarding booster seats and other child restraints can vary from state to state. The Governors Highway Safety Association explains: “All states and territories require child safety seats for infants and children fitting specific criteria, but requirements vary based on age, weight, and height.” Their website allows you look up laws specific to your state, however, just meeting these minimum requirements may not be doing all that your children need to keep them as safe as possible in the car.

Safe Kids Worldwide reports that “road injuries are the leading cause of unintentional deaths to children in the United States.” Furthermore, “Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent”—a number large enough to warrant all parents attention when it is time to buckle in our kids.

The scariest number in the world of car seat safety has nothing to do with which brand of car seat is the safest, as many new parents assume. The real danger comes when we use car seats incorrectly. “Seventy-three percent of car seats are not used or installed correctly”—an astounding number.

To see how your car seat installation skills measure up, use this handy Car Seat Checkup Checklist to be sure you have installed your car seat correctly and are buckling in your child correctly every time. If you want an expert to look over your work, find a car seat fitting event near you by clicking here.

If you are the parent of a seven to twelve-year-old, you need to know that “children seated in a booster seat in the back seat of the car are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash than children using a seat belt alone.” Safe Kids recommends parents have their kids in a booster seat until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds, milestones they say most kids reach between 8 to 12-years-old—despite the fact that some state laws only require a booster seat until age five.

Once in the booster seat, parents should ensure that the seat belt fits correctly: “The lap belt should fit low across the hips and the shoulder belt across the shoulder.” Kids should never be allowed to tuck the shoulder strap underneath their arm, as this removes a critical layer of protection if you’re in a collision.

The Safety Belt Fit Test should be applied to see if your child is big enough to use just the seat belt:

  • The child’s knees should bend at the edge of the seat when his or her back and bottom are against the vehicle seat back; and
  • The vehicle lap belt should fit across the upper thighs or low on the hips; and
  • The shoulder belt should fit across the shoulder and chest.

When your kids meet these requirements, they are ready to ditch the booster seat.

It is very important to make sure our kids are safely buckled into the right restraint, no matter what age they are. Research shows that seat belts save almost 13,000 lives a year. One study found that “of the 451 children ages 8 and under who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2014, 116 (26 percent) were not restrained by an age-appropriate device.”

While many parents and grandparents point out that they survived without the fancy car seats of today, this is not a good enough reason to ignore safety laws and resources available today. These safety measures have saved lives since we were kids: “Vehicle safety technologies first introduced in 1956, such as seat belts, air bags and electronic stability control, are responsible for 613,501 lives saved in motor vehicle collisions from 1960 to 2012.”

Taking the time to research the proper car restraint and buckle your kids in correctly could be the difference between life and death if you are in a collision. Parents need to take this job seriously and make every effort to keep their kids as safe as possible, even if it means enforcing stricter rules for car safety than your state law requires.