At what Age are Seat Belts As Effective As Car Seats?

Though most states in the United States require parents to place their children in car seats until they are 6 or 7 years old, Steven Levitt, an American economist says that some studies suggest that seat belts work just as well for children over the age of 2. Car seats are much more effective at preventing fatalities and injuries in kids younger than 2, but some studies suggest that there is virtually no difference in the frequency of fatalities or serious injuries in crashes with children older than 2 when comparing those wearing a lap and shoulder belt with those in a car seat — this in a recent TED talk. Other experts dispute this and strongly recommend that parents continue to use car seats for children up to 40 to 60 lbs (about 18 to 27 kg) or 4 to 7 years of age, as required by law in some places. Booster seats are required in some US states for children up to 60 to 80 lbs (about 27 to 36 kg).

More facts about car seats:

  • New car seats in the U.S. typically cost anywhere from $30 USD Dollars (USD) to $400 USD apiece, and Americans spend more than $30 million USD buying car seats every year.

  • The first modern car seat was invented in 1962 — before that, car seats were intended to help keep children in their parents' sight rather than to protect them.

  • Car seats in the U.S. have to get a certain safety score before being approved for manufacture; any score of less than 1,000 is considered safe. In crash safety tests, a seat belt gets essentially the same score as a high-end car seat; both get 400-500 points.

More Info: Steven Levitt at TED

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