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News & Press: JPMA Statements

Booster Seats Provide for Safe Transition from Car Seats to Seat Belts

Wednesday, April 15, 2020   (0 Comments)

Car seats provide direct restraint, while booster seats optimize seat belts for young children


Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury and death for American children, and proper use of car seats, booster seats and vehicle seat belts is the best defense. Each day, on average three children are killed and an estimated 487 are injured in vehicle crashes in the United States. The data are clear, car seats decrease the risk of a fatal injury by 71% among infants and 54% among toddlers, while booster seats reduce the risk of nonfatal injuries by 45% among four- to eight-year-old children when compared to vehicle seat belts alone.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommend using booster seats from the time children outgrow car seats with internal harnesses until the vehicle seat belts alone fit properly. The related guidance is to delay advancing the child to the next stage until he or she reaches the maximum height or weight allowed by the manufacturer. This position is shared by car seat and booster seat manufacturers, advocate organizations, and more than 40,000 certified Child Passenger Safety technicians across the country.


“Most children who outgrow the height or weight limits of car seats with internal harnesses are not large enough or developed enough to ride in a vehicle with the seat belt alone,” said Kelly Mariotti, executive director of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). “During the transition from a car seat with an internal harness to a vehicle seat belt alone, correctly used belt-positioning boosters are critical to position a young child so that the vehicle seat belt fits properly and can function properly.”


Informed researchers and experts overwhelmingly agree, booster seats perform an important vehicle seat belt positioning function, reduce the risk of injury by 45% when compared with vehicle seat belts alone, and are important to the safety of children as they transition to vehicle restraint systems. The safety of certain booster seat models was recently questioned by a news organization based on a misunderstanding of booster seat function, the crash performance of vehicle seat belts and the physics of vehicle crashes.


“Booster seats are not intended to change vehicle seat belt functions in side impacts, frontal impacts or otherwise,” added Mariotti. “Instead, boosters optimize vehicle seat belt fit so children can fully benefit from the vehicle safety systems.”


Ill-fitting vehicle seat belts can prevent a child from being ejected from the vehicle but may allow for head injury or damage to vital internal organs. Boosters guide and position vehicle seat belts on the strongest parts of a child’s body to reduce the likelihood of these and other injuries.


Car seats and booster seats must meet stringent Federal requirements to be certified for sale and use in the United States, and side-impact performance requirements are anticipated later this year. The proposed regulations focus on more dangerous crashes that impact the same side of the vehicle where a child is seated, rather than far-side impacts that result in a smaller fraction of the real-world injuries. The proposal exclusively includes near-side performance tests, similar to lateral testing for vehicle side-impact protection systems.


“Car crashes are violent events and a leading cause of injury or death for American children,” says Mariotti. “Proper selection and use of car seats is the best defense, regardless of the cause of a crash. Booster seats are an important step in protecting older children.”

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