It saves on time and gas. But is your daycare or preschool carpool routine putting your child's safety at risk?
According to research, an alarming number of parents admit to being lax about booster seat use when carpooling, even when children who normally use one are along for the ride. How many parents are skipping out on seats? In a nationwide survey of almost 700 parents of kids ages 4 to 8, 76 percent of parents say they use a booster seat for their own child, but only 55 percent insist on it when driving other children. And though 64 percent carpool, 21 percent do not insist on booster seats when their child is riding with another driver, reports USA Today.
"The finding is disturbing because close to 70 percent of parents say they carpool children other than their own, and when they do, they're often failing to use booster seats," says lead study author Dr. Michelle Macy, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor (via USA Today).
Dr. Macy says parents who took part in the survey mentioned practical barriers to using booster seats, including limited vehicle space and difficulties making arrangements with other drivers. Peer pressure may also play a role in the decision to forgo booster seats, she finds. Not only pressure on parents but peer pressure kids may start to feel during the early school years that "boosters are for babies" or just aren't necessary for car safety.
Reasons why booster seats should be a non-negotiable part of your carpool arrangement? Designed for children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seat until they reach 57 inches tall, booster seats provide children with, "the right posture so that an adult seat belt can be properly positioned," Dr. Macy says. "Wearing a poorly positioned belt puts children at greater risk of injuries to abdominal organs, spine bones, and the spine itself." According to Dr. Macy's research, booster seat use reduces injury risk in an accident by 50 percent compared with seat belts only.
Could your child benefit from a booster seat? Rather than use an age cut-off, the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to use a belt-positioning booster seat until a child reaches 57 inches, the height at which proper fit in an adult seat is expected.