Most parents understand the need for child safety seats in the care. But understanding which seat to use and how to use it can be a bit more daunting.
While overall use of child safety seats is increasing, they are not always being used correctly, according to the 2008 Partners for Child Passenger Safety study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Safety seat use among restrained children 8 years and younger rose to 80 percent in 2007 from 51 percent eight years earlier. However, only 63 percent of restrained 4- to 8-year-olds in the study were in appropriate seats. The rest were in adult seat belts alone.
Typically, such belts don't begin to fit properly until kids grow to about 4 feet, 9 inches tall, said Kristy Arbogast, director of engineering at CHOP's Center for Injury Research and Prevention.
"More parents than ever now realize that kids need the help of a booster seat to make sure the belt fits properly across the bony parts of their lap and shoulder, rather than across the soft belly or the neck, which are more prone to injury," Arbogast said.
Previous CHOP research shows boosters lower crash injury risk by 59 percent for 4- to 7-year-olds compared with belts alone.
"Unlike child restraints, boosters don't restrain children in crashes," said Insurance Institute for Highway Safety President Adrian Lund. "This is because, unlike child restraints, boosters don't restrain children in crashes. They simply position kids so lap and shoulder belts are in the right place to restrain them."
Laws vary by state
Arbogast attributes the increase in booster use among older kids to education of parents and caregivers, plus state laws requiring older kids to ride in safety seats. Laws in 43 states and the District of Columbia include booster provisions.
However, the laws aren't clear cut when it comes to child safety seats. It really depends on where you live.