Why are booster seats so important?
After children outgrow their forward-facing car seat with the 5-point harness, they need to ride in a booster seat. The seat belts in your car are made to keep adults safe, so they do not fit children. Booster seats protect children by positioning seat belts correctly. Lap belts need to be on a child’s strong hip bones and the shoulder belt set correctly on the chest. Incorrectly positioned seat belts can seriously injure a child during a collision. For example, a seat belt incorrectly positioned over the stomach can injure the spinal cord causing paralysis.
When is my child ready for a booster seat?
Booster seats use adult seat belts, so a child needs to be big enough to sit back and upright in the seat. A child who places the shoulder belt under their arm or behind their back needs to ride in a forward-facing car seat with the 5-point harness. Also, children that sleep in the car are better protected by a 5-point harness. Most children need to ride in a car seat with the harness until they are five to seven years old.
How long do children need to ride in booster seats?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends children ride in a booster seat until they are big enough for the adult seat belt to fit properly. This means children need to sit in a booster seat until they reach an adult height, usually a minimum of 4 feet 9 inches tall, which commonly occurs between 10 to 12 years old.
Types of booster seats
- Combination car seats can only be used forward-facing. They can be used forward-facing with the harness and a booster seat that positions the vehicle’s seat belt.
- High-back booster seats can only be used with the vehicle’s seat belt. The back has a shoulder belt guide that positions the shoulder belt which is better for younger children.
- Backless booster seats do not have back support and are best for older children, usually over eight years old. A child who sits in a backless booster seat needs to have head support from the vehicle to prevent whiplash injury.
How do I use a booster seat?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has prepared a short video on how to use a high-back booster seat. It is essential to read your vehicle owner’s manual and booster seat manual.
Tri-County Health Care offers free help!
Car seats can be confusing, and Tri-County Health Care is here to help! Several nurses are certified car seat technicians and offer free car seat installation checks. Please call 218-631-7538 to schedule an appointment with a certified car seat technician. The visit takes around 30 minutes and you should bring your child along. The certified car seat technicians have found that about 50 percent of installations are incorrect. Sometimes the straps are too loose, the seat is not tight enough, or the seat is the improper size for the child.
Child safety survey
The link below will take you to an optional survey about booster seats. This survey is anonymous and takes less than one minute to complete.
About the author
Celine Durgin is a Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) medical student and attends the University of Minnesota Medical School. She is from Southeast Minnesota. Celine enjoys studying, hiking, and going to church. She plans on becoming a Family Medicine physician.