'Keep your children in boosters': Mum's plea after serious car accident

Jren McLellan is speaking out after a booster seat saved her son's life.
Jren McLellan is speaking out after a booster seat saved her son's life. Photo: Facebook/Jen McLellan.

When nine-year-old Braeden reached year three, he told his parents he didn't want to use a booster seat anymore. Despite endless arguments, however, they refused to budge.

It was a decision that would save their son's life.

In a post to Facebook, Jen McLellan, of Plus Mommy shared the moment she received the phone call "you never want to get".

Braeden and her husband, Chris, were driving to a friend's place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when they were hit by a car as it ran a red light.

"I didn't freak out until I arrived on the scene and couldn't see my son," Ms McLellan writes. " I finally saw him covered in a red drink, and for a few⁣ seconds, I mistook it for something else. Then I saw the car, and my heart stopped."

Their Hyundai Elantra was totalled. Braeden, however, had only minor cuts and bruises.

"Paramedics were surprised how well my son was after seeing the car wreck," she continues. "They said he would've been far more injured had he not been in a booster."

And she's grateful she never backed down on using the restraint.

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"I can't tell you how many arguments I've had with my⁣ nine-year-old about him not wanting to be in a booster because his friends don't use one. I'm forever thankful I never budged," the 39-year-old says. "At the ER and follow-up appointment with my son's pediatrician, medical providers echoed what the paramedics said - thank goodness he was in a booster!"

The mum is now issuing a plea to other parents: "I have one thing to ask of everyone reading this - keep your children in boosters for as long a possible. Please let that be the good that can come of this. More awareness of how essential boosters are for bigger kids - even if they don't think they are cool!!!!⁣"

In Australia, national laws state:
  • Children aged from seven years old but under 16 years old who are too small to be restrained by a seatbelt properly adjusted and fastened are strongly recommended to use an approved booster seat
  • Children in booster seats must be restrained by a suitable lap and sash type approved seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened, or by a suitable approved child safety harness that is properly adjusted and fastened.

But while legislation states children are allowed to sit in an adult seatbelt, without a booster seat, from the age of seven-years-old, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines clearly note that children should remain in a booster seat until they are at least 145cm tall – the height of an average 11-year-old.

A recent poll by the Royal Children's Hospital found that children's lives are being put at risk, as car seat restraint laws do not adequately reflect expert safety recommendations.

"Parents are following the law, but unfortunately the law does not reflect safest practice and this means many parents are unknowingly putting their children at risk of serious injury or death every day," RCH National Child Health Poll Director Dr Anthea Rhodes said at the time.

"Children aged seven to 12-years-old are being left vulnerable to life-threatening injuries from car crashes due to inadequate use of car restraints and travelling in the front seat of the car.


"A review of Australian laws relating to child car restraints and front seat travel is warranted to address this situation in which current laws may permit, or even encourage, unsafe practices."

As part of the poll, parents provided a variety of reasons for letting their kids make the transition to an adult seatbelt, without a booster seat, including the law stating it was ok (42 per cent), their child was tall enough (42 per cent), their child was too grown up (17 per cent) and their child did not want to sit in a booster seat (14 per cent).

When asked what the safe height requirement was, however, fewer than three per cent of parents knew that their child should be at least 145cm tall.

"It's critical to measure your child before transitioning them out of a booster seat into an adult seatbelt," Dr Rhodes said.

"Booster seats protect children less than 145 cm in height by lifting them up so that the seatbelt fits better cross the chest and hips. Most children don't reach 145 cm tall until around 11 years of age."

This five-step test can help assess whether your child is big enough to be safely restrained by a seatbelt. A child should be able to:

  • Sit with their back against the seat back
  • Bend their knees comfortably over the front of the seat cushion
  • Sit with the sash belt across their mid-shoulder
  • Sit with the lap belt across the top of their thighs
  • Remain in this position for the whole trip.​