Many Tweens Still Need A Booster When Riding In The Car

Many Tweens Still Need A Booster When Riding In The Car

Many Tweens Still Need A Booster When Riding In The Car
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Yup, I’m that parent—the one who is an annoying pain in the ass when it comes to car seat safety. I’ve spent a ridiculous number of hours researching car seat safety, and I follow all the recommendations as precisely as possible.

Back in the day, I kept my babies rear-facing as long as either of us could stand it (the current recommendation is to keep kids rear facing at least till two years old, and as long as possible thereafter). I never, ever let someone take my baby out of their car seat when we were in traffic, even if my baby was hollering, and even if a grandparent guaranteed it would be fine “just this once.” And I’m one of those people who cringes if I see a picture of a kid whose chest clip is too high or too low—if I see it in person, I’ll probably mention it to you.

It’s not because I’m an asshole. It’s because I’ve read the statistics about the dangers of improper car seat use and I don’t think it makes any sense to take any chances with this stuff. After all, car seat deaths are a leading cause of death among kids 12 and under. According to the CDC, 657 kids age 12 and under died in car crashes in 2017—of those kids, 35% were not properly buckled up.

Note that it says 12 and under here. So we are not just talking about car seat safety as it pertains to babies and toddlers. By now, most of us know it’s wrong to skimp out on car seats when it comes to infants. And most of us are aware of how important it is for toddlers and preschoolers to be properly strapped in.

There is just no possible reason or excuse to be lax about any of this, even if you end up being the “no fun” parent who no one wants to carpool with.

But I can’t tell you the number of older kids, tweens, and even young teens I see who are not following the guidelines and potentially putting their lives at risk.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a 7- or 8-year-old riding without a booster. Or a still-too-small 9-, 10-, 11-, or 12-year-old riding without one. Or the number of older kids and pre-teens riding shotgun in their parents’ cars.

Now wait a minute, you might be asking. What kid past the age of 10 is supposed to be in a booster? And come on, can’t we parents decide for ourselves when our kids should join us in the front seat?

Well, I’m glad you asked! I seriously am. Because learning the proper guidelines for tween and teen car seat safety could just save your kid’s life.

So here’s the deal on both of those issues:

Boosters

Most kids aren’t ready to move out of a booster until they are about 10-12 years old. But it’s not about age exactly. It’s about height, how an adult seat belt fits your kid, and your kid’s ability to sit still and be mature for the duration of the ride.

Here are the guidelines for when it’s appropriate to ditch the booster seat, according to the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP):

– All kids under 4 feet 9 inches should be in a booster.

– When using an adult seat belt, the shoulder belt should lie “across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat.”

– The lap belt portion of the seat belt should sit across your child’s upper tights, not their abdomen.

– Your child should be able to sit all the way back, with their butt and back against the back seat. In this position, their knees should be able to bend over the edge of the seat easily.

– Your child should be able to stay properly positioned with the seat belt on, without slouching, squirming around, or moving the seat belt all over the place for the entire ride.

– Most kids won’t meet these requirements till age 10 or 11, and often not until 12.

Riding In The Front Seat

Most of us think of our tweens and teens riding shotgun as a rite of passage—and it is! But it should be based on car seat safety guidelines rather than our own personal idea of when our child is “ready.” And it certainly should not be based on any pressure our kid feels to be “cool.”

– The CDC recommends waiting until at least 12 years old to allow your child to ride in the front seat; the AAP says you should wait until your child is at least 13 years old.

– Of course, it’s also about whether they have graduated out of boosters yet (which may be as late as 12 or more, depending on the size of your kid), and also whether they can maturely wear their adult belts.

But I can’t tell you the number of older kids, tweens, and even young teens I see who are not following the guidelines and potentially putting their lives at risk.

Listen, I know none of this is fun at all, especially with older kids who are dealing with peer pressure, who might encounter other parents who do things differently, and who may be bratty and stubborn AF.

But there’s no “just this once” when it comes to car seat safety, because the truth is, you never know when an accident might happen. You never know what kind of bad weather you might suddenly encounter, what driving mistakes you might unintentionally make, what distractions you might be faced with—not to mention the many erratic, unsafe drivers we all share the road with daily.

There is just no possible reason or excuse to be lax about any of this, even if you end up being the “no fun” parent who no one wants to carpool with. These are our precious children, after all. And every single time you put your child in a car without proper restraints, you are potentially risking their life, no matter how old they are.