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Booster Seat Safety
What Are Booster Seats?
Booster seats help older kids stay safe in cars when they have outgrown a car seat but aren’t big enough to use a seatbelt alone. They raise a child up so the seatbelt is in the right position.
What Are the Types of Booster Seats?
Booster seats come in a few styles:
Belt-positioning boosters raise kids to a height where they can safely use the car's lap and shoulder belts. They come in high-back or backless models:
- High-back boosters are recommended when the car has low seat backs.
- Backless boosters can be used if a child's head is supported up to the top of the ears by the vehicle's back seat or head support.
Combination seats are high-back seats that can be used with a harness as forward-facing safety seat or with a seatbelt as a booster seats.
If your car doesn't have shoulder belts in the back seat, talk to your car dealer about having them installed. If that's not possible, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping kids in a forward-facing seat with a full harness.
How Do I Install a Booster Seat?
- Follow the instructions from your car owner’s manual and the booster seat product manual to install the booster seat.
- Place the booster seat forward-facing in the back seat. It's best to put it in the middle of the back seat.
- Make sure the lap belt is flat, low, and tight across your child's hips and the shoulder belt is flat and snug across your child's shoulder, not touching their neck and face.
- If your child buckles themselves in, be sure they have done it correctly.
- Have the booster seat checked at a child safety inspection station to make sure it is installed correctly.
When Do Kids Outgrow Booster Seats?
Kids can stop using a booster seat when:
- They're big enough to use the vehicle's lap and shoulder seatbelts while sitting with their back against the vehicle's seat back with their knees bent over the edge of the seat without slouching.
- The lap belt rests low, on top of the thighs, and the shoulder belt lies comfortably across the middle of the chest.
- They can comfortably stay in this position for the whole ride. This usually happens when a child reaches a height of 4 feet-9 inches (about 150 centimeters) and is 8–12 years old.
Kids who outgrow a booster seat but are still under age 13 should continue to ride in the back seat.
The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends that kids younger than 13 years old always ride in the back seat. If you have no choice and your child must ride in the front (for example, if your car is a two-seater), turn off the air bags and push the seat as far back as possible. Be sure to turn the air bag back on after your child is out of the front seat.
Never fasten the shoulder strap of the seatbelt behind a child's back or under their arm. And never buckle two kids (or an adult and a child) under one seatbelt. Their heads could collide in a car crash.
If you carpool or have other kids in your car, it's wise to have an extra booster seat handy, especially if you're unsure about whether a child meets the height requirements. It's always better to be safe than to let a child who isn't big enough ride with only a seatbelt.
When possible, get a new (not used) booster seat. And don’t use a booster seat that’s more than 6 years old or a one that was in a crash — it could be unsafe, even if it looks OK.
What Else Should I Know?
Car seat and booster seat laws vary by state, so check your state’s specific laws.
Get more information about keeping kids safe in cars online at:
- Keeping Kids Safe in Cars
- Car Seat Safety
- When Can a Child Switch to a Regular Seatbelt?
- Road Rules for Kids
- Choosing Safe Baby Products: Infant Seats & Child Safety Seats
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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