Pediatricians: Car booster seat laws should be standard in all 50 states

John Egan

Mandatory use of car booster seats for children until at least age 8 should be the law in all 50 states, researchers said Oct. 22 at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child be secured in a belt-positioning booster seat until the child reaches 4 feet, 9 inches tall – sometime between age 8 and 12. While many states have laws that echo this recommendation, some states impose varying standards for how long a child should remain in a booster seat. For example, some states require use of a booster seat only until age 6 or 7.

Two states – Florida and South Dakota – don’t have laws mandating use of child boost seats, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Researchers reviewed federal data from January 1999 to December 2009 and compared rates for deaths and serious injuries in states before and after booster seat laws were passed. Car crashes are the leading killer of children age 1 to 12 in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The pediatricians’ study found more than 9,800 deaths and serious injuries among children 4 to 8 during the 10-year period. Researchers discovered a 20 percent decrease in deaths and serious injuries for children 4 to 6 in states with booster seat laws compared with states without booster seat laws. For kids 7 and 8, the decline was even greater – 33 percent.

Children ages 4 to 6 with no or improper restraints were twice as likely to die or be seriously injured; 7- to 8-year-olds were four times as likely.

Furthermore, the study found, kids 4 to 6 who were wear just a lap/shoulder belt (no booster seat) had a 20 percent greater chance of death or serious injury compared with kids who were property restrained. For 7- to 8-year-olds wearing just a lap/shoulder belt, the odds were worse: a 70 percent higher risk.

To review evaluations of child booster seats, visit the website of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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