In my previous job as a children’s nurse, I looked after several children who had been badly injured in car accidents, due to wrongly used or fitted car seats. It affected me, very much, and when I had my own children, I became and still am rigid about car seat safety and my children stay (0r stayed) in car seats longer than their peers. Matthew for example is still in a high backed car seat, with a five point harness, and will be until he is six, when he will switch to a seatbelt in the seat. Emily was until this week, using a booster seat.
Car seat rules and laws have changed and are different all over the world, and in fact since Matthew was born, the rules on rear facing infant car seats the recommended age for rear facing has changed. If we have another baby, I will be doing more research to find the best safest, most practical seat that will fit in our car, because the infant seat we have will be well over it’s expiry date by then. (yes, car seats expire, something I think a lot of people don’t know)
Emily, now being 9 years old, has been hassling me for a while now, because she still was using a car booster seat, when in our car and many of her friends, in fact all of them, apparently are not and she has been feeling like I am treating her like she is a baby and that she doesn’t need her booster seat anymore. Because I know that seatbelt position, height and weight and ability to sit properly with an adult seat belt on are vital, for a child to be safe riding in a car, I have made her use the booster seat, despite these protests. If a car seat belt is incorrectly positioned and the car/passenger is involved in a collision or crash, then there are many dangers that can arise. Massive internal injuries, back and neck injuries… all rather scary sounding and something I would like to prevent, if at all possible. She knows all of this, and that she needs to be safe, but she feels like she’s a baby, when all her friends are not using a booster seat. She is tall for her age, so this doesn’t help. I wanted to make sure we were doing the correct, safe thing, as well as being within the law.
So, I decided to go and check what the laws and recommendations are so we could then make a decision. I was quite surprised at what I found.
According to UK Law:
Children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first.
So we measured her. She is 139cm tall. This means, that technically, she can sit in the car, without a booster seat.
There are other factors I consider and not just her height. Can she sit properly in the car, with the belt across her lap, positioned correctly? This image shows how she should be sitting with her knees positioned correctly and the belt across her shoulder, not against her neck, and across her lap, not her stomach.
We tried her out and she can sit safely. She is only nine, but because of her height and maturity, we think she is safe to not use the booster seat.
So, she is feeling a bit more grown up, her mother is feeling emotional, because it seems like only yesterday, that she was buying a baby car seat to take to the hospital, and we are glad we checked the rules.
I don’t normally share posts like this. I am loathe to proclaim myself as any kind of parenting expert, but I do know that I have seen children who definitely do not reach the stated height, riding in cars with no booster seat, and given that I didn’t actually know the laws around what age and height was correct, I thought it would be helpful to share this information. It can’t hurt to check your child’s height, and it certainly is safer to have them riding with a booster seat, that bit longer, than to risk them being injured or killed in an accident or collision.
For more information, for UK based car seat help, you can check here. If you live outside the UK, then check your country’s laws and the current recommendations.