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When Should You Stop Using a Booster Seat for Your Child in the Car?

Happy kids, adorable girl with her brother sitting together in modern car locked with safety belts enjoying family vacation trip

Kids grow really fast. It seems you are buying them new clothes one day, and they are bursting at the seams the next. The same goes for car seats. As you transition from rear-facing car seat to forward-facing, and from car seat to booster seat, how do you know when it is time to switch out equipment? The kids themselves may be eager to move to the next stage as soon as possible and enjoy a new level of freedom and movement in the car, and you may be eager as well to move them along to the next stage of growing up. Yet studies show that more restrictive seats are safer, and the longer kids stay in them, the better. Keep reading for information about child safety in the car, and contact a skilled Glendale personal injury lawyer at McReynolds Vardanyan, LLP if you’ve been in a Los Angeles car accident.

New Rule for Rear-Facing Car Seats

Up to less than a year ago, parents would have been told to use rear-facing car seats in the back seat for their infants up to age two. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised its recommendations to urge parents to keep children in rear-facing seats until they reach the height or weight limit for the seat, which could be up until age four for some kids. Rear-facing seats are found to be the safest position for small children, lowering their risk of serious or fatal injury by more than 70%, so keeping them rear-facing as long as possible is best for their safety.

Once the child has outgrown the rear-facing car seat, the next step is a front-facing seat with a harness. Again, the recommendation is to use this seat until the child is too big for it, usually at about 65 pounds.

When to Stop Using the Booster Seat Altogether

When the forward-facing seat has been outgrown, the child is ready for a belt-positioning booster seat. How long should this phase last? Experts once again recommend as long as possible, until the car’s regular lap and shoulder belt can be used with a proper fit. This is typically at about 4’9” in height and somewhere between eight and 12 years old. Note that both a lap belt and a shoulder belt are recommended.

Should You Worry About Airbags?

When can the child move up to the front seat, now that a car seat or booster seat is no longer needed? It is recommended to keep children riding in the back until age 12. If moving a child to the front passenger seat earlier than that, you may want to consider turning the passenger side front airbag off. Airbags can be lifesavers to teenagers and adults, but they can cause serious injury or death to smaller children, especially infants in rear-facing car seats in the front seat. A properly-functioning airbag will still deploy with explosive force, and the vast majority of airbag-related fatalities that have happened have occurred to infants or children riding in the front. Frontal airbags have been standard in all vehicles for more than a decade now, and all come with some ability to disable the feature. Although older cars may need the help of a mechanic to disable the airbag, the passenger airbag in most newer models can be disabled within the cabin by the consumer; some models will even automatically sense if a child car seat is installed up front and disable the airbag. Another option is to slide the passenger front seat as far back as possible, lessening the force of impact and likelihood of serious injury in an airbag deployment.

While we all pray for safety and drive with special care when transporting our most precious cargo, we can’t always avoid a collision with a negligent, speeding, drunk or distracted driver. If you’ve been hurt in a car accident in Los Angeles or southern California, call McReynolds Vardanyan, LLP in Glendale at 818-855-2115 for a free consultation with one of our caring, experienced, dedicated and successful personal injury attorneys.

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