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Research Update: Booster Seats

CDC Recommends Booster Seats for Children

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Child Passenger Safety Week-February 14-20, 1999. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 1999;48(4):83-84.

An article published in the February 5, 1999 MMWR recommends that parents use booster seats when driving with children who have outgrown their child safety seats. These recommendations were issued in observance of National Child Passenger Safety Week (February 14-20, 1999), by a partnership between CDC=s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board.

What Is a Booster Seat?

Belt-positioning booster seats are designed to raise children up on the car seat so that the lap/shoulder belts fit correctly. This is the preferred type of booster seat and requires a lap/shoulder belt in the back seat of the vehicle. Shield booster seats have a plastic shield in front of the child. These seats offer less protection, however, and the report recommends they only be used with the shields removed so that they function as belt-positioning booster seats.

Why Use a Booster Seat?

In the United States, 1,791 children younger than 15 years were killed and 282,000 were injured as passengers in motor vehicle crashes in 1997. Among 5 to 9-year-old passengers, 46% of those involved in fatal crashes were unrestrained.1

Who Should Use a Booster Seat?

Children should start using a booster seat when they grow out of their convertible child safety seats -- when their ears are level with the top of the back of the safety seat and their shoulders are above the top strap slots, or when they reach the upper weight limit for the seat. Children should use a booster seat until the lap/shoulder belts in the car fit properly -- when they are at least 58 inches tall, have a sitting height of 29 inches and weigh 80 pounds (with clothing on).2 To ride comfortably and safely, children must be able to bend their knees over the edge of the seat while sitting with their backs firmly against the seat back. In most cases, this means that children 10 years old and younger should be using a booster seat after they have outgrown the child safety seat.

Where Should Booster Seats Be Placed in the Car?

All children 12 years and younger should ride in the back seat whenever possible, regardless of whether they require a booster seat.

For More Information

Check out the following web sites to learn more about child passenger protection and age/weight-specific recommendations:

  1. US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Children. Traffic Safety Facts 1997. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 1998.
  2. Klinich, KD, Pritz, HB, Beebe MS, et al. Study of Older Child Restraint/Booster Seat Fit and NASS Injury Analysis. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Final Report, DOT HS 808 248, November 1994.


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