Joyce Brandon is in a tight spot. For now, her children are strapped safely in the backseat of the family's sedan. But add one more child to the mix, and the Brandons may have to upgrade to a larger vehicle. "I don't have room for anyone to sit in the middle of my back seat," says the 29-year-old mother of two from Alexis, Illinois, whose two- and six-year-olds ride opposite one another in their car and booster seats. "And I am very disappointed that there isn't a way to shut off the passenger airbag so that if we needed to transport another child, my [six-year-old] son could sit in the front seat in his booster seat," she laments.
Brandon is not alone in her dilemma. Currently, 22 U.S. states have mandatory booster seat laws, and legislation is pending in many more. While increased use of booster seats will surely save lives, there's been an apparent lack of education on their need as well as well as their proper use, leaving even diligent parents like Brandon in the dark about how best to protect their children.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, just 10 to 20 percent of American children aged four to eight are currently being restrained in booster seats. In contrast, 94 percent of toddlers are properly restrained.
Why is it so important that your big kid ride in a booster seat? What do you do if it's your turn to drive the community carpool? And how do you know when a child is ready to move out of his booster seat to a seat belt?
We asked Lorrie Walker, Training Manager and Technical Advisor for the SAFE KIDS Buckle Up Program, a division of the national non-profit agency dedicated to the prevention of unintended childhood injury, to provide answers to some frequently asked questions about booster seats. (Some additional information was provided by The American Academy of Pediatrics.)
Who should be in a booster seat?
"The current recommendations for booster seats are for children to be in them up to four feet, nine inches and up to eight years of age," says Walker.