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Booster seats in the car, how long should they be used?

Integrated child seats


In the automobile, children between 6 and 9 years of age are those exposed to the greatest level danger of any age group when they are travelling as passengers by car or van. The percentage of deaths per million inhabitants is the highest of any age group: the level of children between 6 and 9 years of age killed in traffic accidents is 5.2 per million inhabitants, for children between 10 and 14 years of age this rate is 2.2 per million and for children between 2 and 5 years of age it reaches 4.0 per million. The group with the lowest death rate of children killed in automobiles is that between 0 and 1 year of age (the level is 1.1 deaths per million inhabitants).

The explanation for this greater exposure to risk for children between 6 and 9 years of age could be related, in part, to greater mobility but also because parents stop using booster seats or booster cushions too early and the adult seatbelts cannot be correctly adjusted to fit the child.

For a better understanding of the last possibility, MAPFRE FOUNDATION has made a study of 810 parents with children between 4 and 10 years of age in an attempt to understand their knowledge of child safety in the automobile, and it was discovered that:

a) 8% of parents recognized that, at least sporadically, they don’t use a child seat, booster seat or even an adult seatbelt. 

b) This lack of use of child restraining systems is more frequent in girls (9.5%) than boys (6.9%), those weighing over 36 kg (36.1%), and those between 9 or 10 years of age (25.3%). 

c) 6% of children changed their baby seat (group 0+) to a booster seat without going through the intermediate stage, which would be group 1. Jumping straight to a booster seat without using the intermediate child seat involves an important and avoidable risk. 

d) On the other hand, approximately 20% changed their child seat  (group 1) to a booster seat too late (when according to their weight they should have done it earlier). 

e) A high percentage moved on to the use of an adult seatbelt too early. Around 28% of those between 6 and 8 years of age use a seatbelt and 38% of those between 9 and 10 years old also use one. 

f) The vast majority of children use the rear seats (in the case of children between 4 and 10 years old that use a forward facing seat, the percentage is around 95.5%). MAPFRE FOUNDATION wish to remind you that the front passenger seat is much less safe than the rear seats, especially the middle rear seat (the safest of all). 

g) Children using the front seat do so most often on short trips (41% of those surveyed), when the only other person in the vehicle is the driver (15.5%) or for other excuses such as it being easier, the child requested it or is feeling sick. In only 5% of cases, the child is in the front because the vehicle is full. 

h) More than 55% of parents that are not planning on changing their child seat with a harness (group 1) for a booster seat or cushion (group II or III) justify it because they believe them to be “unsafe or dangerous”. This totally unfounded belief about booster seats may cause the parents to move straight on from a child seat to using an adult seatbelt.

i) 25.3% of parents don’t believe, don’t understand or at least are unsure that booster seats are a legal obligation according to Spanish law. 

j) One in every three parents (33.5%) do not know what is the required height of a child before they are allowed to use a seatbelt instead of a booster seat. When asked about weight, only 35% of those surveyed admitted to knowing that children can stop using a child seat once they are over 36 kilos (this being the maximum weight permitted for these seats). Regarding weight, more than 40% had no idea that there was a minimum required before a child can use a seatbelt. More than 40% were unaware there is a minimum age for a child to use a seatbelt according to Spanish law.

k) The majority of parents (70%) indicated that their children travel in a vehicle driven by someone else (other parents or family members such as grandparents) at least once a week. Around 48% habitually use other vehicles (those using another vehicle three or more times per week). 

l) In the region of 8.6% of parents admitted to having been involved in a serious accident during the last few years.

m) Only 12% of parents indicated that they had received advice from a child road safety expert to ensure that their seat is correctly installed.

Using these results, MAPFRE FOUNDATION would like to stress that

It is very worrying that still, around 10% of parents admit that they, at least sporadically, do not always protect their children by using a child car seat when driving with them. It is therefore important that we continue to educate them and work towards eradicating this dangerous situation.

  • According to Spanish legislation, child safety seats are obligatory in cars and vans until the child reaches 12 years of age or measure over 135cm in height. From then on it is legal to use adult seatbelts.
  • From the point of view of child safety, booster seats should be used until the adult seatbelt can be correctly adjusted to the child’s body. If the seatbelt is not correctly adjusted it does not offer proper protection to the child and increases the risk of injury.
  • Booster seats are necessary for use by all children that are too big for other types of seats but are too small to properly use the vehicle’s adult seatbelt.
  • For older children (6-12 years old), booster seats are 45% safer than just using a seatbelt.

How do you know whether a seatbelt is correctly adjusted? By using these simple Info graphics:

You can either read or download the report “Booster seats in the Automobile, how long should they be used?" Also other earlier studies from the corresponding chapters by using the following the link 

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