Once kids outgrow a forward-facing car seat with harness (check its instructions on height and weight limits), it is time for a booster.
A booster helps a seat belt fit more securely over their hip bones and sternum instead of their soft belly, and allows their shoulder belt to rest more comfortably across their chest between shoulders.
Children should ride in forward-facing safety seats with harnesses until reaching the maximum height or weight limit set by the manufacturer, at which time they should switch to a booster car seat in the back seat – California law mandates this practice for children aged eight years or over 80 pounds.
Many booster seats feature an inbuilt harness for use as child safety seats until a child outgrows it, or exceeds its maximum height or weight limit. At that time, they may switch to a belt-positioning booster seat until their vehicle seat belt fits properly – typically around four years old and at least 4 feet 9 inches tall.
A proper fit requires that both lap and shoulder belts fit securely over a child’s hips and shoulders, without being tucked under arms or behind backs.
A booster seat elevates a child so that their lap belt fits low on their thighs and shoulder belt sits across their chest instead of in their neck or face. Too big children who slouch can increase their risk of injury in a crash.
In most states, children should remain in a booster seat until they reach 4’9” and between 8 and 12 years of age. While they may feel inclined to jump out early, chances are the seat belt won’t fit properly at that point anyway.
Keep in mind that the best option for children is a backless or high-back booster seat without an integral harness. Children should initially remain in group 1 forward-facing car seats until reaching their manufacturer-specified height and weight limits; at that point they can switch over to booster seating.
Children aged 8-12 and standing at 4’9” should use belt-positioning booster seats until they reach 4’9″. A booster raises children so that adult lap and shoulder belts fit properly across their upper thighs, shoulders and neck – helping keep stomach and neck issues at bay.
Even after your child outgrows the weight and height limits of their forward-facing car seat, a booster may still be necessary; just make sure they pass the 5-step test first! Always adhere to manufacturer instructions regarding age/height requirements as well as state laws concerning child passenger safety.
Children, whether riding in a booster seat or not, should sit upright and remain seated throughout the journey. Slouching, fiddling with their belt, placing it under their arm or moving their shoulder belt from side to side are not appropriate behaviors while in a vehicle. If the seat belt touches their face, neck or belly they should continue riding using one.
Children may switch from harnessed car seats to booster seats when they outgrow their maximum height or weight limits, but it is essential that children are mature enough for booster use before transitioning. Lap belts should rest firmly across the chest – not under an arm or around back–not slouching or shifting positions during a ride–younger children may slouch and shift during an impact, which could cause shoulder belt cuts into necks and faces in an accident. Shorter children can often struggle to fit properly into lap belts – their bodies don’t support support system’s strength needed by vehicle lap belts.
Next time your child nags to leave their harnessed car seat, make sure they meet minimum age and weight requirements for a booster, with their lap belt resting low on their hips across their chest (rather than under their arm or behind them) – then ask if they have enough maturity to remain in this position throughout their ride.
Chris is a passionate learner and writer. When he’s not working on his blog or learning something new, he’s a full-time systems administrator and father of two beautiful girls. Chris loves spending time with his family, reading, writing, and playing hockey.