Booster Seats: Are They Old …or Tall Enough to Stop Using Them?

Beginning October 7th 2009, Ohio’s new booster seat law requires all children 4-8 years old or up to 4 feet 9 inches tall to be in a booster seat. Most US states have passed similar laws…as have many other countries. (New boost to child safety seat laws by Mary Ann Greier )

In Britain, a child shorter than 135cm (4 feet 5 inches) will stay in a booster seat until they reach 12 years of age, and many European countries have set 1.5m (4 feet 11 inches) as the minimum height for transition from booster seat to adult safety belt. Australia will raise its age to 7 at the end of the year.

In NZ, the Paediatric Society believes youngsters should be kept in booster seats until they reach age 10 “to prevent horrific abdominal or neck injuries”. The Plunket Society, another NZ organization believes height rather than age should be the determining factor. The subject is under heavy debate as there is a concern as to whether or not a minimum height requirement will be more difficult to enforce than age. (Call to give kids booster seats until 10 by Mathey Dearnaley )

What an interesting question this age vs height thing – however not just for the folks in New Zealand but for all of us because wherever you are, the laws are always changing and evolving. So what are our options??? Do we ask the 10 or 12 year old to ride to school in a booster seat because they are shorter than their school friends? One might argue against this in favor of their emotional well being. Or do we allow transition from a booster seat based on age, assuming the majority of a population will have reached a “safe” age by the time they are 8 or 9 years old. Or do we continue to make it an “either/or” decision, allowing the child to graduate to adulthood based on whichever milestone they reach first?

As a strong believer in child safety seats and one of the founders of ANSR for Kids (Ambulances Need Safety Regulations), I can tell you that this is not an easy question and I would not pretend to have the “right” answer. I can only say that I would not give a damn (excuse the language) about what is difficult to enforce – what matters is that they make the choice that’s going to keep kids safe. And what I will share…and please believe me when I say I thought long and hard before I wrote this …is what would be the right answer for me: I can always drop my child off down the block… I can always get my child therapy… but what I can never do is bring them back once they are gone. I choose height because I believe that will keep them safe.
What would you choose?

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team


3 Responses to “Booster Seats: Are They Old …or Tall Enough to Stop Using Them?”

  1. Doreen says:

    I'm 4 11 myself and the height thing just seems offensive to me as an adult.

  2. Stefanie Zucker says:

    As someone just over 4'11 myself I see where you're coming from. Still, for me I would like to see the results of some crash tests that can help understand what is really the correct height where a seat belt can properly protect a child from serious injury. Is it 4'2" or 4'6" or 4'8"? At that point set a booster seat law that works. I'm not talking about something that cradles a child once they're older and taller, but something that they can sit on that helps them reach the minimum safe height to protect them from major injury. …anyway, I think that would make me personally feel better. Any other thoughts out there???

  3. Jay says:

    I am the father of 2 girls and they are taller (apparently) than other children of their age. So the question of age vs hieght is very interesting and it comes with other subjects as well. Speaking wth many other parents, the general consensus is that all children vary in size, wieght, hieght, intellect and so on. Thus, to have them placed into the same categories based on these stages is also damaging. I agree with Stefanie Zucker, safety is always first and early parental responsibility and education will undoubtedly help the child to understand the impotance. It has with us.

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