No, we’re not talking about me this time, though I can attest that it was a little harder to turn 40 years old than I expected. Here’s the topic for today:
When it comes to child passenger safety, graduations are usually not joyous events. In many cases, every time a child reaches an important age, weight or height milestone, it means they will “graduate” to a type of child seat that provides less protection. For example, a child moved to a booster generally won’t get as much protection as they would in a 5-point harness. Similarly, front-facing child seats typically provide less protection than rear-facing ones in the most common and severe types of crashes from the front and side.
My son just had his 4th birthday a few weeks ago. He was a hair under 40 pounds at his checkup and is still a hair under 40 today (plus or minus a margin of error for heavy clothing or right after a meal)! That’s an important milestone. According to the instructions of various child seat and vehicle owners manuals, he may no longer be able to use a 5-point harness child restraint that is installed with the LATCH system (depending on vehicle and child restraint instructions, of course). This isn’t a reduction in safety, since the seatbelt is just as safe, as long as it results in a good installation. It is often more difficult and less convenient to use the seatbelt, though.
As a double whammy, 4-years and 40-pounds is also a general rule of thumb where it’s OK for many kids to transition to boosters. In part, that is because the 40-pound threshold is also the forward-facing limit for many smaller or older 5-point harness models. Plus, in the case of the new Graco My Ride 65, it’s happens to be the limit for rear-facing. So, it is a bittersweet milestone. He’s a big boy now, but at least in the USA, he can no longer be restrained as safely as he can in countries like Sweden. In fact, before the My Ride 65, the highest limit you could find was 35 pounds for a rear-facing convertible seat in North America. Sad, but true.
On the plus side, he’s got another year or two before he moves into a booster!