carseatBy Hannah Anderson

Parents throughout the country are using booster seats in their own cars, but they are not always consistent when carpooling other children, according to a survey released recently by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Carpooling and Booster Seats: A National Survey of Parents,” published in the February issue of “Pediatrics,” is based on a 2010 survey of parents of 4- to 8-year olds who responded to questions on carpooling and booster seat use.

Of the 681 parents included in the study, 76 percent reported that their children use a safety seat when riding in the family car, but only half said they always have their child use a booster when riding with friends. In addition, one in five parents does not always ask other drivers to use a booster seat for their child.

The survey listed social norms and parents’ confidence in their own driving abilities as possible reasons for the discrepancy.

Booster seats are important for children shorter than 4-feet, 9-inches because they ensure that seat belts fit properly, which reduces the risk of serious injury in a crash. The survey authors stressed the necessity of using “size-appropriate restraints for every child on every trip.”

The survey also emphasized the difference between state booster seat laws and AAP recommendations for booster seat use. While state laws usually set an age limit for booster seat use (Maryland’s Child Passenger Safety Law mandates booster seat use up to age 8), the AAP recommendation is size-based and encourages the use of booster seats for all children shorter than 5-feet, 9-inches.

“The safety benefits of booster seats go beyond the age limits in existing laws,” the AAP survey said. has a five-step test parents can use to determine whether their child needs to use a booster seat.