Child Safety: A Growing Problem

Grace Schleter is big for her age. Just barely 3 years old, she weighs 42 pounds (nearly 10 above average) and is tall for her age, too. Her size comes in handy in holding her own against three big brothers, but it's less useful for car trips. "She's uncomfortable in her car seat," says her mom, Angie. "The straps are too tight."

According to a new study in Pediatrics this week, "Tipping the Scales," more than 280,000 U.S. children are too big for a standard car seat. Car seats are suggested for kids up to age 4, but few models accommodate children who exceed 40 pounds (those that do are much pricier than the average seat). This leaves parents of obese (or just large) children with a difficult decision: leave kids in seats not designed for their weight or prematurely graduate children to booster seats or seat belts. "Neither is a suitable option," says study coauthor Lara Trifiletti, associate professor at Columbus Children's Research Institute in Ohio. She'd like to see more affordable plus-size seats. There's a market: the obesity rate in 2- to 5-year-olds has more than doubled in the last 30 years--and continues to grow.