Car Seat Safety By Age: Booster Seat Safety

Children who reach the highest weight or height of their forward-facing child safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster. There are four types of booster seats. In some cases, choosing a booster seat will depend on whether or not your vehicle has high seat backs, headrests or head restraints.


Car Seat Safety By Age: Booster Seat Safety

Narrator: As your children grow from toddlers to school aged, the way you keep them safe in your car changes as well. Research shows securing your four to eight year old kids in belt positioning booster seats with both lap and shoulder seat belts, instead of seat belts alone, reduces the risk of serious injury by half. On young children the shoulder portion of a vehicle seat belt often crosses the neck rather than the shoulder, which is both uncomfortable and dangerous. To get comfortable, kids may put the shoulder belt behind their back or under their arm, which isn't keeping them safe. If the shoulder belt is not positioned properly and a crash occurs, your child's upper body and head can fly forward and hit the interior of the car causing neck, spine or brain injury. After your child completely outgrows the internal harness of their forward facing child safety seat, you can switch to a belt positioning booster seat. Consult your safety seat's owner's manual to find out when your child will reach the maximum weight or height of the car seat. A belt positioning booster seat like this one, raises your child, so the lap shoulder belt is properly positioned across the center of the chest and low on the hips, touching the thighs. In a crash, the belt will protect and restrain the child, as it was designed to do. Children should stay in a belt positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached four foot nine inches tall and are between eight and 12 years of age. Boosters require a vehicle seat with both a lap and shoulder seat belt to work correctly.

Some booster seats have an internal harness, like this. These can be used with the harness until your child reaches the maximum weight limit, and then without the harness, as a belt positioning booster seat. Most booster seats have a maximum weight limit of 120 pounds. Check the manufacturer's instructions for the specific limits on your seat.

There are two types of booster seats -- a high-back booster and no back booster. A no back booster seat must be used in vehicles with head rests and your child must weigh at least 40 pounds to ride in this type of seat. All booster seats have specific age, height and weight requirements, so be sure to check your owners manual.

Belt positioning booster seats are easy to use. You are not installing them as you would a car seat. Booster seats are designed to raise a child up, so the seat belt fits correctly. Of course, you still need to read your vehicle owner's manual and booster seat instructions, but here's some general advice on using your booster.

The right place for a booster is anywhere in the rear seat that has a lap and shoulder belt. Have your child sit in the booster seat, hold the lap shoulder belt across their body, buckle it and make absolutely sure the shoulder strap stays in front of your child. Always use both the lap and shoulder belt.

Black belt guides are cut out grooves on the sides of the booster that help make sure the lap portion of the seat belt lies below the hips and touches the thighs. The shoulder belt should fit across the center of the shoulder and chest and should not cross or touch your child's neck. Use a shoulder belt positioner to guide you if needed or required.

The lap belt should fit snugly below the hip bones and against the upper thighs. It should never rest over a child's belly. Check your booster seat manual to see how to thread the shoulder belt through the positioners, but be careful not to pull the belt off the shoulder. Remember, the experts at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia are passionate about your family safety.

So buckle up. We wish you the safest of travels.

Related Centers and Programs: Car Seat Safety for Kids