March 2nd, 2009
03:29 PM ET

Booster seat battles when she’s not a baby any more

By Jo Parker
CNN.com producer video/news

“Keep your kids in booster seats until they are 4-foot-9 and 60 pounds.”

Finally, vindication in the form of a public service announcement. I’ll take support anyplace I can get it!

As my daughter got closer to 8 years old, I’d felt increasing pressure from other parents to ditch her booster seat and let her ride with just an adult seat belt. “None of her friends will be in a booster seat,” they warned. “Will she be using a booster seat on dates?”

Is it just me, or does that sound an awful lot like, “C’mon! All the kids are doing it!”?

We’ve faced the pressure before. First to give her solids before she was 6 months old. (“Will she be breastfeeding in kindergarten?”) Then to turn her car seat to face forward before she was 20 pounds. (“How can she enjoy the ride if she can’t SEE?”) Then to let her play outside without a parent. (“But she’ll be with other kids – they can watch each other!”)

Now that she’s 8, state laws no longer protect her in the car seat department. No state insists that a parent measure an 8-year-old to ensure an adult belt fits properly (over the hips, not tummy and across the shoulder, not neck).

However, many of those states don’t even mandate that children ride in the back seat, even though the risks of that are well documented – and automakers post warnings about the dangers of children riding in the front seat right on the sun visors of vehicles.

Don't get me wrong - I know that adults around today survived without car seats. My childhood trips were spent sandwiched between brothers Roger and Mike trying desperately not to vomit while breathing in cigarette fumes. The one trip I didn't spend vomiting was when four of us rode from Illinois to Florida in the back of a pickup truck.

I’d looked at research by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that showed kids in booster seats had 59 percent fewer injuries than children using just seat belts.

And my daughter is on the small side, just under 50 inches tall and 45 pounds. She’ll be in that booster seat for a long time to come.

During those years, I guess we’ll be wrestling with when it’s OK to drop her off at a movie, leave the building when she’s at ballet practice and let her go to a boy-girl party. And don’t get me started on dating.

I’ll try really hard to not criticize parents who aren’t as conservative on these issues as I am, and I hope they’ll give me the same latitude (and, maybe, a bit less attitude?) as I keep her a bit closer to the nest.

What about your kids? Do you think it’s worth risking social stigma to keep them in booster seats until seat belts fit properly? Or are parents like me just being too overprotective?

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