Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Car Safety for Kids -- Laws are for Minimum Safety

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we were out of town last week, visiting my family in Illinois.  Because we were traveling by plane and then rental car, one of the things I had to do was look up the child safety seat laws in Illinois to make sure we were bringing the right stuff.  One of the things I was reminded of, was that child safety seat laws are really just minimum safety guidelines. It's important to read further to make sure you're best protecting your child/children.

My daughter is 5 and my son is 8, and they both currently ride in booster seats.  Under Maryland law, my son does not have to ride in a booster, but my husband and I both think the seatbelt fits better with the booster. However, for the purposes of this trip, my husband, who hates lugging stuff around the airport, asked me to check if Illinois required a booster seat.

My response was, "I'll check, but I think the booster is safer."  So, I went to http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/childsafety_laws.html, a site that summarizes the child safety laws for all 50 states.

Like Maryland, Illinois allows 8-year-olds to ride without a boost. But, upon reading further, I found that adult seatbelts are designed with for a person with minimum height of 4'9" and minimum weight 80 lbs. My son is neither (he's 4'7" and I don't own a scale, so I'm not sure his exact weight, but he was 60 lbs at a November doctor appt; and I feel confident he hasn't gained 20 lbs since then).  And I don't know that many 8-year-olds who are that big. So, I told my husband we'd bring both booster seats.

Anticipating the fighting, my hubby also wanted to know at what age kids could ride in the front seat in Illinois. "They have to be 12 in Maryland," he told me. But, he was wrong. Maryland law does not prohibit children from riding in the front seat, unless they are in a rear-facing infant carrier. Anyone (other than a person in a rear-facing infant carrier) may ride in the front. Maryland notes this is extremely dangerous and not recommended, but they do allow it. Similarly, Illinois recommends youngsters stay in the backseat until 12, but it's not a requirement.

Sometimes, I think it's easy to hear the basics of the law, like 8-years-old means you don't need a booster, and do it. But for maximum safety, staying in the booster a little longer is better.  I'm really glad, however, that we don't do a lot of car pooling, because I think that also leads to the desire to pull kids out of the booster right at 8. It's much easier to have someone pick up your kid and take them somewhere if you don't have to worry about physically transferring a booster seat to that other parent. And there's also the embarrassment factor, where kids feel pressure to get out of the booster if their friends aren't in one.

That's it for today.

-Hyattsville Mom

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