Overweight Kids Means Bigger Car Seats

Manufacturers Respond to Childhood Obesity Trend

As more children become overweight or obese, keeping them safe in a car 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 was obese. More than one in three children was 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 1-6 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 her 2006 research, McKenzie said she suspects the number of overweight children has increased. But there are also more car seats available for bigger kids, she told Edmunds.com.

"The majority of car seat makers are increasing their weight limits," said David Campbell, a technical consultant for the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association.

For instance, the weight and height limits for the Orbit Infant Car Seat G2 were increased for infants to 4-30 pounds, instead of the 4-22-pound range it previously had, said Nicole Daley, a spokesperson for Orbit. Those higher weight and height limits also apply to the newer model, the Orbit Infant Car Seat G3, which accommodates children from 4-30 pounds and 19-32 inches in height.

For more information on appropriate car seats for heavier infants and children, check the American Academy of Pediatrics' healthychildren.org website, which maintains a current list of car seats and their height and weight limits.