As more children become overweight or obese, keeping them safe en route can be a challenge.
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of 2008, about one in five children ages 6-11 were obese. More than one in three children is either overweight or obese.
In 2006, researchers evaluated how many children were potentially affected by ill-fitting car seats. They used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2005 Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings and growth curve information from a national survey. They could then figure out how many children were over the recommended weights.
They estimated that the parents of nearly 284,000 children ages 1 to 6 years old would have a difficult time finding a child safety seat due to their child's age and height. Most of those children were about 3 and weighed more than 40 pounds. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.
At the time, only four child safety seat types could accommodate such children, according to Dr. Lara Trifiletti McKenzie, one of the researchers.
While there is no update from the 2006 research, McKenzie says she suspects the number of overweight children has increased.
But there are also more car seats available for bigger kids now, she tells Edmunds.com.
"The majority of car seat makers are increasing their weight limits," says David Campbell, a technical consultant for the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association.
A random check of manufacturers suggests that this is true.
For instance, the Orbit Infant Car Seat G2 can now be used for infants from 4-30 pounds, instead of the 4-22-pound range it previously had, says Nicole Daley, a spokesperson for Orbit. A toddler car seat can be used forward-facing for up to 65 pounds, instead of the previous 50.
Likewise, Britax Child Safety has increased the weight maximums, says Mariana Mack, a spokesperson. When in booster mode, its Frontier 85 model can hold a child who weighs up to 120 pounds.
Dorel Juvenile Group's MaxI-Cosi Pria 70 car seat can accommodate kids from infancy to 70 pounds. Its Boost Air Protect seat can handle a child who weighs up to 100 pounds, according to Dorel spokesperson Brittany Welch.
Some models of car seats are also accommodating children who are taller than average. The Safety 1st Boost Air Protect, for instance, has a headrest that adjusts up very high for taller passengers, according to Welch.
The Dorel Juvenile Group's infant seat, the Safety 1st onboard 35, boasts that it has 17 percent more legroom than most infant car seats, Welch says.