Parents carpooling reflect inconsistent use of boosters

A new study finds that parents often skip using booster seats for children when carpooling, putting children at a greater risk of injury.

Failure to use a booster puts a child at risk for a host of injuries.
Failure to use a booster puts a child at risk for a host of injuries.

A recent study indicates that many parents are failing to consistently use booster seats for children in their car. Despite recent changes to Michigan law increasing the mandatory age of booster use to eight-years-old, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for booster use until 4 feet 9 inches tall, many parents admit to not requiring school-age children to use booster seats for carpool.

The study, conducted by the University of Michigan C.S Mott Children’s Hospital and published in the February 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics, found that 76% of parents consistently use booster seats when transporting their own children age’s four to eight, but only 55% require use when transporting other people’s children. The study went on to determine that although 62% of parents regularly carpool, 21% do not require other drivers to use boosters for their own children.

These findings are particularly concerning because booster use reduces the risk of injury or death in a car crash by more than 50%. Booster seats are recommended for children who have outgrown their forward facing car-seat, but are too short to fit in the vehicle seat-belt correctly. Boosters are designed to “boost” children up the vehicle seat to prevent the seat-belts from crossing through the soft abdomen and neck. Instead the seat-belt should contact the strongest points of their body, at the hips and through the center of the shoulder.

Why are parents not using booster seats? Convenience and peer pressure are two commonly cited reasons. Furthermore, over half of parents interviewed in the study indicated that they did not know what the law is regarding boosters. Of those that said they were familiar with the law, 29% did know it correctly, but 20% guessed incorrectly.

In March of 2011 the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration strengthened their recommendations for booster use, to emphasize the need to keep children in boosters until they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall. Failure to use a booster puts a child at risk for a host of injuries, including abdominal injuries and spinal cord damage. In the last 10 years, 47 states have enacted laws requiring booster use, most of those to a minimum of age eight. In Michigan the law requires booster use for children to age eight or 4 feet 9 inches, whichever comes first. There is no exception for transporting other people’s children in a situation such as carpool, drivers can be stopped and ticketed for failure to correctly restrain their passengers. The current recommendations and a chart of state laws can be found at

For more articles related to child development, safety and parenting, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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