A nation-wide law to enforce that children must stay in booster seats until they are above the height of 4 feet 9 inches, or 8 years old, would be extremely effective for saving lives, according to a recent study conducted by Boston Children’s Hospital researchers and published in the journal Pediatrics.

Experts went over facts from Fatality Analytic Reporting System and looked into the prevalence of child mortality due to car accidents. In particularly, they examined whether the accident occurred in a state that had a booster seat law in effect. If the accident happened in a state with booster seat standards, the researchers looked into how tall and how old the children were.

Each state showed different outcomes, because every state’s booster seat law, in regards to age and height, is different. However, the overall results of the study were conclusive. States which had booster seat laws in effect were found to have remarkably fewer mortality cases than the states with no laws, particularly for children between the ages of 6 and 7.

The key outcomes of the study included:

  • States which had booster seat laws lengthened for 6 and 7 years olds were found to have a 35% lower rate of mortality and incapacitating injuries.
  • Out of 9,848 instances spanning over the course of 10 years, the states which had booster seat laws for children up to ages 4 to 6 had 20% lower death and incapacitating injury rates from car accidents than those without the laws.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said that kids should be seated in booster seats, around the age of 4, even after they are too big to fit in car seats, up until they are at least 4 ft. 9 inches, which usually occurs in a child’s growth around the age of 8 to 12.

When children are not in booster seats, seat belts are often positioned on their stomachs and throats, as opposed to their laps and chests, which increases the risk of serious or fatal injury in the event of an accident.

The report stated that although the benefits of booster seats are tremendous, the use of them is still surprisingly low. Only around 50% of 4 to 5 year olds and 35% of 6 to 7 year olds use booster seats.

Rebekah Mannix, MD, MPH, from Boston Children’s Division of Emergency Medicine, and lead author of the trial commented:

“Based on our findings, booster seat use for children under the age of 8 or 4 feet 9 inches should go beyond causal suggestion. It’s clear that these laws save lives and we recommended all states adopt them.”

7 Lois Lee, MD, MHP, co-author of the study, said: “At the end of the day we all want children to be safe. Data show booster seat laws help protect children, and we hope it can convince lawmakers to adopt laws that require kids to be in the proper child passenger restraint (car seat and booster seat) until the recommended age and height.”

Written by Christine Kearney