Study Finds Carpooling Parents Forgo Kids' Booster Seats

By Jennifer Newman  on January 31, 2012

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More than 50% of carpooling parents allow the 4- to 8-year-olds in their car — even their own kids — to skip booster seats, according to a national survey published in the February 2012 edition of the journal Pediatrics. Nearly half of the survey's 1,612 respondents said they didn't know their state's booster seat law.

The web-based survey also found that one-third of the respondents said getting a carpooling child's booster seat in advance was too much of a hassle.

Booster seats are the next step for children who have outgrown a forward-facing child-safety seat. A booster elevates a child and helps a car's seat belt, which is designed to fit adults, fit properly across the child's chest and lap. A booster seat is more than twice as effective in reducing a child's risk of injury when compared to seat belt use alone.

As this study shows, parents are confused about the importance of booster seats. Part of this confusion comes from state laws that vary greatly across the nation and base booster seat usage on a child's age rather than the child's size, according to the study. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which publishes Pediatrics, recommends that kids use booster seats until they're 4 feet 9 inches tall - regardless of their age.

Parents shouldn't hesitate to insist that their child ride in a booster seat during carpool. In the survey, 79% said they did just that. But parents can make it simpler on the carpool driver by providing a booster seat.

The Bubble Bum, an inflatable booster seat, could remove the hassle factor some parents mentioned in the study. When not in use, this small booster seat, which has been named a Best Bet by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, can be deflated and stored in your car's trunk. In Cars.com's senior editor Kristin Varela's real-life test of the Bubble Bum, she was able to fit three of them across her sedan's backseat.

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Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Newman is a certified car-seat technician. A mom of two, she owns a 2013 Subaru Outback crammed with sports gear.  Email Jennifer