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When you should consider booster seats for your child

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [1], car accidents are the leading cause of death in children aged between four and eight. Booster seats have been found to play a part in protecting children in this age group from serious injury. In fact, they have been reported to reduce the risk of injury by 59% compared to only using a seat belt.[2] Something to note is that while seat belts save lives, should a collision take place, an ill-fitting seat belt made for an adult can actually cause injury to a child instead of preventing it.

In Singapore, anyone below the height of 1.35m is required to be secured using child restraint systems. Alternatively, you will need to use a booster seat. Those who are 1.35m and over are required to wear a seat belt. This regulation which came about in 2012 was made in consultation with the Ministry of Health and follows a review of international standards and practices. This threshold height is found to be more suitable in deciding the proper fitting of seat belts and is also consistent with current practices in countries such as the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, and Belgium.

What is a booster seat and how does it work?

A booster is a seat the child sits on and uses a vehicle’s seat belt as their restraint. It positions the vehicle’s safety belt properly on a child. It lifts the child up so that seat belts lie across the strong bones of the chest and pelvis instead of the belly and the neck.

When to use a booster?

You should consider a booster with a lap/shoulder belt once your child has outgrown a forward-facing seat.

What is a car seat?

A car seat is one the child sits in and uses a five-point harness (car seat straps) as their restraint. You should keep your child in a car seat with a five-point harness until his weight or height has reached the limit specified by the car seat manufacturer.[3] Once he’s outgrown the seat, it’s time to look for a suitable booster seat.

How to install a booster seat

When it comes to installing a booster seat, refer to your booster’s manual for instructions. Some booster seats use your car’s LATCH system to keep it secured while others only rely on your child’s weight and the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt. If your car doesn’t use the LATCH system, secure the booster seat even when it is unoccupied to prevent it from shifting during a sudden swerve or collision.[4]

Check to make sure the lap belt sits low and snug across the child’s hip bones. The shoulder belt should be positioned away from your child’s neck and cross the middle of their chest and shoulder. 

A common question parents ask is whether to use high back or backless booster seats. Children should start with a high back booster seat. They can move to a backless (also known as no-back) booster seat if they are able to sit upright during the entire journey every time, the vehicle seat has a headrest behind the child’s head and the seat belt is positioned correctly.

Backless booster seats should only be used in seats with headrests. If your vehicle’s back seat does not have one, you should use a high-back booster as backless types do not offer enough side support to protect your child’s head and neck in the event of an accident if they are sleeping.

Moving from a booster seat

To ensure your child’s safety, the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that kids use boosters until they are able to fit properly into vehicle seats.[5] The best way to determine when your child is ready to stop sitting in a booster and use only a car seat belt is to use the five-step test [6]. To do the test, consider the following points after buckling your child into the back seat of your car without a booster seat:

  1. Is he able to sit all the way back against the seat?
  2. Do his knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat without slouching?
  3. Does the belt rest naturally below his belly, touching the tops of his thighs?
  4. Is the shoulder belt centred between his shoulder and neck?
  5. Is he able to sit this way for the entire trip?

Having said that, according to Singapore law, your child’s height also matters. They can only move to using a seat belt when reach 135cm in height and above. Forward-facing seats car seats go all the way to a minimum of 40 pounds, so don’t consider moving your child to a booster seat until they reach or exceed that. A tall child who weighs less than 40 pounds may need a different car seat with a taller back and a harness.[7]

Car seats in taxis

Taxis are exempt from child safety seat requirements; however, private hire cars are not. Parents may bring along a child car seat or alternatively, choose car sharing services that offer child car seats for children. Whichever method they select, parents must be familiar with the appropriate type of car restraint for the corresponding height and age of their child, advises Dr Chong Shu-Ling, staff physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.[8]

According to The Traffic Police, a child or person below 1.35m can only ride in the rear seat. Passengers below 1.35m who sit in the front seat will need to use their own child restraint or booster to supplement the seat belt.[9]

Check out this article about full facts of child car seats and booster seats if you wish to learn more about them. Alternatively, you can visit our product page to purchase or renew your car insurance.

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