Current law requires that young children riding in a vehicle be restrained in a child safety seat with a harness until such time that their shoulders are at a level that reaches above the top strap slots. When children outgrow an infant child safety seat, they should be properly restrained in a child booster seat until they have reached the age of eight years old, weigh over 80 pounds, or have reached a height of at least 4’9″.
Booster seats are used for children if they are not big enough to properly use a seat belt in a car seat. Booster seats are commonly used with children between the ages of 4 to 8, who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and are under 4’9” in height.
Regulations for Child Restraint Systems
The National Highway Safety Administration, as set forth in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, requires specific standards and regulations for all child restraint systems manufactured and sold in the U.S., including infant carriers, harness child seats, and booster seats. In addition to passing a number of crash tests, there are specific requirements regarding the padding, materials, and restraint systems. Manufacturers are additionally required to include accurate instructional information for the booster seats, as well as provide a designated area for storage of the instruction manual with the seat. A registration card and appropriate labels must also be included.
Defective Booster Seats
Any booster seat not in compliance with federal safety standards and manufacturing requirements is subject to recall. In addition, booster seats may be recalled for a number of other reasons, including restraint strap or slot issues, defective seats, or small parts which may become dislodged from the seat and pose a choking hazard to children.
Booster Seat Injury and Death Statistics
In 2008, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) received reports of an estimated 11,700 injuries related to infant carriers and car seats, including booster seats. In addition, a total of 24 deaths were reported between 2004 and 2006, with an average of eight deaths per year related to either infant carriers or car seats. These injuries and deaths were all unrelated to motor vehicle incidents.
Booster Seat Recalls
Examples of defective booster seats that have been recalled include:
Circo Booster Seats
In August 2009, approximately 43,000 Circo Booster Seats were recalled as a result of a defective restraint buckle that is capable of opening unexpectedly. The buckle, located on the safety strap, creates a fall hazard for children and is an extreme safety hazard in the event of an automobile accident. Eight reports were received concerning this issue, three of which involving injuries to the child. The Circo Booster Seats involved in this recall were manufactured in China and sold in Target stores nationwide from December 2008 to June 2009. The seat is made of plastic and is blue with a green trim, while the safety restraint straps on the seat are white.
Safety 1st Fold-Up Booster Seats
Safety 1st recalled approximately 1.5 million Safety 1st Fold-Up Booster Seats as a result of a defect in the seat insert on the booster seat. The top part of the insert on the seat is capable of separating, which poses a fall hazard for the child. Safety 1st and the CPSC received a total of 32 reports regarding the issue, and in each of the instances, the two halves of the seat separated. Seven of the reports involved injuries to the child, including bruises, lacerations, bumps, or a fractured arm. The safety restraint system on these booster seats consists of a crotch strap and a two-piece waist strap. The blue plastic booster seat has green and red arms, and a yellow tray. “Safety 1st” appears on either side of the seat insert. The recalled seats were sold between January 1994 and August 1999 at major hardware, department, and toy stores nationwide.
Basic Comfort Galaxy Booster Seats
Basic Comfort, Inc. recalled its “Galaxy 2000” and “Galaxy 2000 With Backs” booster seats as a result of non-compliance with safety standards set forth by the National Highway Safety Administration in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. The defective backs and seat cushions were manufactured from polystyrene materials that were not correctly steam pressured during the construction process. As a result, the polystyrene beads did not properly bond and the seat backs and cushions do not withstand crash tests, causing them to completely separate from the booster seat. These booster seats were produced from November 1998 to January 1999.
Dorel Car Seat Recall
In December 2009, a recall of approximately 447,000 infant car seats was announced by Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc., the National Highway Safety Commission, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The recalled car seats have a flaw in the handle bolts which allows the bolts to come loose and cause the handle to separate from the seat, posing a fall risk for infants when the product is used as a baby carrier. The recalled car seats include certain models of Safety 1st, Cosco, Eddie Bauer, and Disney brands.
Recalled model numbers include:
- Safety 1st: 22-057 DBY; 22-085 DWA; 22-057 CLN; 22-057 HRT; 22-322 HRR; 22-322 PTK; 22-057 LPH; 22-085 LYN; 22-322 KDL; 22-322 LXI; 22-322OLY; 22-322PRS; 22-322 MAI; 22-325 COB; 22-095 RBK; 22-380 LGA; 22-380 MSA; 22-627 WAV; 22-325 PAC
- Cosco: 22-300 FZN; 22-300 OSF; 22-300 CSF; 22-300 JJV; 22-300 THD; 22-300 TWD
- Eddie Bauer: 22-627 CGT; 22-627 FRK; 22-627 SNW; 22-627 WPR; 22-627KGS; 22-655BYTE
- Disney: 22-627 AWF; 22-355 LBF; 22-305 NAB; 22-305 PPH; 22-355 PWK
Dorel received 77 separate complaints about the product defect, with at least three infant injuries, including one head injury. The recalled car seats were sold in the U.S. and Canada from January 2008 to April 2009.
The company says consumers should stop using the car seat as a carrier and obtain a repair kit, but the product still meets federal safety standards when used as a car seat.