Booster SeatKids who have outgrown their car seats are not quite ready for a seat belt alone although they might try to convince you otherwise. Instead, have them transition to a booster seat that enables the adult seat belt to fit properly. Booster seats can actually be pretty cool. Best of all, children 4 to 8 years old seated in a booster seat in the back seat of the car are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash than children using a seat belt alone.

Choosing the right car seat is high on the list for any new parent, and every parent plans to leave the hospital with a newborn securely buckled up in a car seat. But as kids grow up, using a car seat or booster seat may feel more like an option rather than a requirement. In California, just remember it’s the law. All children who are under age 8 must be properly buckled into a car seat or booster in the back seat. Children 8 or older, or who are 57″ tall, may use the vehicle seat belt if it fits properly with the lap belt low on the hips, touching the upper thighs, and the seat belt crossing the center of the chest.

Booster Seat Tips

  • Use a car seat or booster seat correctly in a back seat every time your child rides in a car.
  • Booster seats are not installed the same way car seats are; a booster seat uses no harness. They sit on the vehicle seat and are used to properly position the adult seat belt for an older child.
  • Never place the shoulder belt under the child’s arm or behind the child’s back. It is against California law.
  • Be sure all occupants wear safety belts correctly every time. Children learn from adult role models.
  • Tell all drivers who transport your bigger child that booster seat or car seat use is a must when your child is in their vehicle.
  • Never leave children alone in a vehicle.

When your child reaches 4 feet 9 inches, use the Safety Belt Fit Test to determine if the child is big enough to use the adult seat belt without a booster. Use the Safety Belt Fit Test on every child under 13.


The Safety Belt Fit Test

  1. Can the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
    Have your child sit in a back seat with their bottom and back against the vehicle’s seat back. Can your child stay in that position through the duration of the trip? If yes, go on. If not, the child must remain in a booster seat.
  2. Do the child’s knees bend naturally at the seat’s edge?
    If yes, go on. If not, the child must stay in a booster seat.
  3. Buckle the seat belt. Does the lap belt stay low on the hips?
    If yes, go on. If it rests on the soft part of the stomach, the child must stay in a booster seat.
  4. Look at the shoulder belt. Does it lay centered on the collarbone and shoulder?
    If yes, go on. If it is on the face or neck, the child must remain in a booster seat.
  5. Can the child maintain the correct seating position with the shoulder belt on the shoulder and the lap belt low across the hips for the whole trip?
    If yes, the child has passed the Safety Belt Fit Test. If no, the child should return to a booster seat and re-test in a month.

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