This post was sponsored by AAA.
In time for holiday travel, I want to remind you that AAA offers personalized car seat inspections by appointment for all young family members. The outcome of inspections is specific action items to make your children safer right away, from infants in rear-facing seats to kids on the bubble between needing a booster and not wanting a booster anymore.
These inspections are FREE, take less than an hour, and can provide simple life-and-death safety tips specific to your family members. Schedule one locally through AAA.com/carseats to find a AAA branch nearby and directly contact that technician for a private, one-on-one inspection. Do this today >
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for all children. Child safety seats, or car seats, reduce the risk of injury by 71% to 82% and reduce the risk of death by 28% in comparison to children in seat belts alone. Booster seats reduce the risk of nonfatal injuries by 45% among 4 to 8 year olds.
When we had our car seat inspection, I learned a lot about my toddler's seat, but also my older kids' seats and safety. Let's talk about the big kids today.
I arrived to our inspection with my eight year-old and ten year-old seat belted into their usual seats in my minivan to be weighed and measured by the AAA inspection staff. Not only does the child's size matter, but the dimensions of the car can make a big difference.
Car seat safety inspections take about 45 minutes per seat/child. It can be boring for kids, who must be present for an effective assessment, so bring a book or activity and snack to keep them amused. I'd be stunned if you didn't learn something new.
What I learned
Seated, my 8- and 10-year old sons are the same height and required adjusting the car's head rest to the same spot. Their 1-2″ in overall height difference is all in the upper leg; ten year-old Holden was approved to sit in the minivan middle seat without issue, but little brother, Milo had trouble with his legs extending comfortably and reaching the floor. Milo, therefore, was blessed by the AAA authorities to sit booster-free only if he remains in the way-back seat.
I overhear a lot of debate among the grade school children I drive around for carpools about who needs a booster and who does not. They say things like, “I'm 8 now, so I don't need a booster.” Sorry, buddy, that's not how it works.
Keep your children in booster seats until the seat belt fits them properly.
Children should be taller than 4'9″ and between ages 8 and 12 before moving out of a booster seat. If kids are particularly small or have more mature friends, this can be a big bummer.
Before you kick the booster to the curb…
- Does the child sit all the way back in the auto seat?
- Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat?*
- Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
- Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
- Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
*Note: This is where my tall eight-year old still had a NO in one of our minivan's rows.
Use a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits properly with the lap portion of the belt fitting low across the child’s hips and the shoulder belt across their sternum and collar bone. Proper belt fit may not be possible in some cases until age 12 or 13.
Before you let them sit in the front seat…
AAA strongly recommends that kids under age 13 stay out of the front seat because they can be seriously injured by front passenger air bags in the event of a crash.
You can also find tips and guidelines at safeseats4kids.aaa.com.
Thanks to AAA for giving me the opportunity to work with them on this post. Before you hit the road during Thanksgiving or Winter Break, read the common booster seat mistakes.