A lot of people have become concerned that the increase in the number of overweight children in America means booster seat safety may be compromised. At least one study has found children’s weight is not a factor.
Calls for heavier dummies
For the past few years, according to the Daily Mail, more concerned parents and safety experts have been calling for booster and car seat manufacturers to alter the design of the seats to accommodate heavier children. Up to one-third of children, according to the New York Times, are considered obese.
Most booster seats are designed for children up to 65 pounds, as are National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash test dummies. Researchers and parents have been calling for a heavier test dummy since at least 2004. Some booster seats are “rated” to 85 pounds as a marketing gimmick, but there hasn’t been sufficient testing to demonstrate what the effect of heavier children is on crash safety. New dummy and seat designs are forthcoming, but some research says current seats work just fine.
Proper use trumps all
A study, according to the New York Times, from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Injury Research and Prevention, found that weight was not a factor in risk of injury posed to children by car crashes.
The study looked at data from 1,000 individual crashes, involving children ranging from 1 to 8 years of age, with a wide distribution of weight. Some children were overweight, some were not. The study did find that whether restraints were properly installed and used significantly altered the injury risk. Children of any age or weight who were properly secured in a booster seat or car seat that was correctly installed had a far lower incidence of injury.
Check the specs
Children fared better in car crashes when parents disregarded age in lieu of height and weight specifications, according to PRNewsWire. In other words, 4-year-olds aren’t necessarily better protected in a seat that says it’s for ages 4 and older.
They are, however, better protected if they are in a seat rated for a child of their height and weight by the manufacturer. The studies’ authors, in keeping with American Academy of Pediatricians’ recommendations, advise that parents keep their child in a booster seat until they exceed 4-feet 9-inches in height or about age 12, whichever occurs first.
The study is appearing in the December issue of the medical journal Pediatrics.