What is a booster seat?
Booster seats are a type of child restraint that do not have a five-point harness system, but rather rely on the vehicle seat belt system to keep your child restrained. The booster seat elevates your child so that the vehicle seat belt is positioned properly over your child. Booster seats should be used in the rear vehicle seat with a lap and shoulder seat belt system, never a lap belt-only.
Why use a booster seat?
Because vehicle seat belts are designed to fit an average-sized adult, they do not fit correctly on a child’s smaller body. The purpose of a belt-positioning booster seat is to lift or position your child so that the vehicle seat belt fits across the strongest parts of your child's body, providing the greatest amount of protection.
A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that "the lap belt should fit flat across a child's upper thighs, not across the soft abdomen, which is more likely to be injured in a crash than bony structures like the pelvis." In the event of a collision, a lap belt that is improperly positioned across your child's abdomen can cause serious injuries, including injuries to internal organs, that can't always be diagnosed immediately and can be life-threatening. For children between the ages of 4 - 8, the use of a booster seat can reduce injury rates by 58% over the use of a seat belt alone.
When is your child ready for a booster seat?
Booster seats are for older children who have outgrown their forward-facing child seat. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it is best for children to continue to use a forward-facing car seat with a harness and top tether in the back seat for as long as possible. If your child outgrows his seat but is not yet ready to stay seated properly in a booster seat using the lap and shoulder belt, consider using a seat with a harness approved for higher weights and heights.
Proper Positioning in a Booster Seat
To ensure that the booster seat and vehicle seat belt are properly positioned for your child, follow these steps:
||The lap belt should be low and tight across the child’s upper thighs, not the soft abdomen.
||The shoulder belt should fit snugly across the child’s mid-chest and shoulder. The vehicle belt should NOT be positioned over the child's neck, under the child's arm, or behind the child's back.
||Either the booster seat or vehicle seat head restraint should be adjusted properly for the child’s height.
How Long Should Your Child Stay in a Booster Seat: Law vs. Best Practice
Requirements for car seat use vary depending on the state in which you reside. BRITAX recommends that you follow the laws of your state as the minimum requirements for restraining your child while traveling. Additionally, BRITAX recommends that you continue to use the child seat system - convertible car seat, youth seat, or booster seat - to the upper limits of its recommended use, or until your child can fit properly in the adult seat belt (see the Safety Belt Fit Test below).
Also, please keep in mind that state law does not always represent best practice. We recommend that you follow the laws of your state as the minimum requirements for restraining your child while traveling.
Find out what the laws are in your state
The Safety Belt Fit Test
For adult seat belt use, the following are additional best practices recommended by BRITAX. To be able to fit an adult seat belt, a child must:
- Be tall enough to sit without slouching,
- Keep his/her back and buttocks against the vehicle seat back,
- Keep his/her knees completely bent over the front edge of the vehicle seat,
- Keep his/her feet flat on the floor,
- Be able to stay comfortably seated this way, AND
- The vehicle seat belt must be positioned correctly across the child's hips and shoulder/middle of the chest.
Learn more about the booster seats offered by BRITAX:
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