Uh ... a 12-Year-Old in a Booster Seat?

Photograph by Getty Images/National Geographic

Does it seem weird to put your 12-year-old in a child safety seat? To be honest, I didn't give it much thought until I read about Tennessee lawmakers passing a bill that would increase age requirements for car seats and booster seats. But they later recalled it, after facing criticism that lawmakers had gone too far.

Current Tennessee law requires parents to place kids in rear-facing seats until age 1, forward-facing seats until age 3 and booster seats until age 8. The retracted bill would have kept toddlers in rear-facing seats until age 2 and forward-facing seats until age 5. The most extreme part? Children should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall or until 12 years of age.

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After reading through the government safety guidelines, it turns out the Tennessee bill wasn't so far off the mark. It actually tried to bring the law up to speed with American Academy of Pediatrics and National Highway Safety Administration recommendations.

The laws clearly weren't the same back when I was a kid. In Jamaica, there were no such requirements. It wasn't unusual to see a mom with baby in arms riding in the back seat from the hospital. It was also pretty normal to see a small child in the front seat of a car.

A lot has changed since then, but there's still a similar tug against car seats after a certain age. I still see school-aged kids without a car seat, as old as 12-year-olds. Unfortunately, not being strapped in properly could cost kids their lives.

I completely understand that it's all about a child's safety, but it seems difficult to ask some 12-year-olds to sit in a booster seat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States and buckling them in an age-appropriate seat can reduce the risk of fatal injuries.

The CDC reports that 638 children 12 years old and under died in motor vehicle accidents in 2013 with more than 127,250 injured. The report also claims that 38 percent of the kids were not buckled properly, which means that some parents didn't adhere to the recommended child safety seat guidelines.

Conflicted, I decided to reach out to some of my Facebook friends to find out their thoughts on how old is too old to place a child in a car seat.

Jennifer Zambrano from the Bronx, N.Y., says she kept her kids in a car seat until about 8 years old.

Latina Mom.me contributor Bryanne Salazar says that her kids stopped at age 2. "They're 16 and 18 now—but the laws were different when they were little. They never had booster seats, either."

Brooklyn, N.Y., mom, Jamila Maynard says that her 3, 4, and 7-year-olds are still in the recommended restraints and says that there are more things to consider when it comes to keeping them in a booster until 12.

"It depends on their height, not their age to me. I think a child should be in a booster seat until they can sit in the car and their feet touch the floor of the car while seated," she writes.

I agree that guidelines should focus more on height, and even weight, rather than a child's age. I completely understand that it's all about a child's safety, but it seems difficult to ask some 12-year-olds to sit in a booster seat. In fact, if I were to tell my nephew to ride in a booster seat a few years ago, he'd probably look at me like I was crazy. Even though he fell within the recommended height guidelines for a seat, I'm pretty sure he'd refuse. Then what do you do?

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I'll admit I've been guilty of not following the rules. I remember turning my daughter's car seat around at 16 months. At that time she was in the 98th percentile in the height category, and it didn't make sense to keep her facing backwards because her knees were practically touching her face.

However, my son stayed in rear facing position until a few weeks after he turned 2 years old because of his size.

Right now my kids are 2 and 5 years old and they're in the proper restraint at all times. But when I think about them being in middle school and having to sit in a booster, I can't help but feel it'll be a bit odd.

So what do you think? Should parents be more diligent in making sure their pre-teen rides in a booster seat?

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