Big Brother is 6.5 years old. Most kids his age use either a booster seat or just the seat belt (darn Michigan’s crappy laws!) while riding in the car. BB rides in a 5-point harnessed seat. This crash test video demonstrates why. (Note that the dummy in the foreground is using a properly installed high-back booster, while the dummy in the background is using a properly installed 5-point harness. Watch the difference in their movement.)
In a nutshell, that’s why I support extended harnessing.
Now, lest you think that I’m saying you must go out and purchase an expensive harnessed seat for your first grader, I’m not. For those who are interested in keeping their kids harnessed once they outgrow the traditional 40-lb-limit seats (which can be alarmingly young – I’ve seen two-year-olds who have outgrown traditional seats!), there are higher weight harness options in all budget ranges.
Graco Nautilus $130-$160 This is a relatively new seat that hanesses to 65 lbs., then becomes an excellent high-back booster, then a low-back booster. (Graco also says that LATCH/upper tether may be used in high-back booster mode, and that the backless booster portion has an expiration date of 9 years – compared to 6 years for the rest of the seat – but they haven’t updated the manual yet.)
Fisher Price Safe Voyage Deluxe $129: Harnesses to 55 lbs.
Evenflo Triumph Advance – $129: Harnesses to 50 lbs.
Sunshine Kids Radian 65 $199: Harnesses to 65 lbs. They also make one with an 80 lb. limit.
First Years True Fit $180. This harness-only convertible seat accomodates small rear-facing infants all the way through big kids weighing up to 65 lbs.
Britax Marathon/Decathlon/Boulevard $204-299: Harnesses to 65 lbs.
Britax Regent $269: Harnesses to 80 lbs. Has the highest top harness slots of any non-special-needs seat on the market.
Britax Frontier $280. This new seat from Britax harnesses until 80 lbs. and then becomes a high-back booster with the highest top position on the market; the entire seat has an expiration of 9 years.
Safeguard Child Seat $449: (OK, I’ve never seen anyone with THIS expensive seat!) Harnesses to 65 lbs.
7-10-08 Edited to add a picture of Book Boy in his Graco Nautilus. He ASKED me to buy him this seat, because he wanted another “seat with straps” in our second car, instead of the booster he had been riding in.
11-07 Edited to add a picture of BB in his Regent. As you can see, he is perfectly happy in it.