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Cooley On Cars
Smarter Driver: What you need to know about booster seatsSo many seats, and so much technique to using each one properly. CNET's Brian Cooley offers some safety tips on using perhaps the most misunderstood child seat: the booster.
Yes, car seats, so many you go through as a parent. When I was a kid, car seating safety for little ones consisted of dad saying, "Hang on when you locked up the drum breaks." Today, of course, you've got three major faces. Your kids are gonna start off in a rear-facing, little guy's seat, then they're gonna graduate to a front-facing fully harnessed seat. And then what we're talking about today, the booster, which is often misunderstood by folks. This is the one that interfaces them to the car's seating and they eventually graduate from this to sitting in the car like everybody else. Now, when you're gonna use any of these in your kid's development is gonna vary by your state's laws and regulations. Here in California goes like this. A new born to one year or to 20 pounds uses a rear-facing seat. Over one year and 20 pounds, a forward-facing child seat with full harnesses and tethers to the car's seat. Then under 8 years old or 4-foot, 9, is a booster seat and make that a high back one if the car seating doesn't come to the child's ears. Then over eight years or f-foot, 9, seat belts, as long as the kid fits in the seat properly. Basically, a booster seat is kind of a filler panel to get your kid up so their body aligns up with the shoulder and lap portions of the belt in a safe way. They're basically using the vehicle's seating now but with a little bit of a bump up in height. And what you would think any company making this kind of product would get it right, sometimes they don't. That's where IIHS ratings come in handy. At their labs, four geometries are measured that result in four kinds of ratings, different than the stars you may see for other kinds of vehicle's safety. There are best bets, those were seats that provide good belt fit in almost any car, mini van or SUV. Good bets provide acceptable belt fit in most cars, not recommended those seats don't provide the kind of fit you need and should be avoided. And check fit applies to booster seats the institute has tested but have found varied results depending on the child's size and the model of car. Bottom line, there are two things to eyeball carefree to get it right with any booster seat you use with your kid. Shoulder belt should not slide off the shoulder on one side or put force across the child's neck on the other direction. Lap belt, not too high, so it's distributing force across the top of the thighs and not the vulnerable abdomen area. Two things about a booster seat, it pays to double check.