Home » Does Your Kid Still Need A Booster Seat? Here’s How To Figure It Out In 90 Seconds

Does Your Kid Still Need A Booster Seat? Here’s How To Figure It Out In 90 Seconds

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If you’re a parent with a little baby or toddler, you’re probably juggling a child seat on the regular. But if your kids are a little bit bigger, you might be pondering over booster seats. If you’re wondering if they’re necessary, or how long you should use them, fear not—we’ve got the information you need.

Meet Jamie Grayson. He’s a Child Passenger Safety Technician, an important job you probably didn’t know existed. He uses social media to talk about safety tech for kids, advising parents on how best to take care of their little ones on the road. Recently, he’s been talking booster seats, educating us about just how important they are.

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Thankfully, determining whether your kids need a booster is easy. Jamie recommends following a simple five-step assessment.

You might be wondering why booster seats even matter, and that’s a great question. The simple fact is that car seats are designed to seat adults, first and foremost, and they’re simply not suitable for smaller children. The booster serves as a smaller, comfortable seat that provides appropriate restraint and safety for child passengers.

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“A lot of people don’t use booster seats long enough,” says Jamie. “Improper booster seat usage, or lack of booster seat usage, is actually where we see a higher instance of injury in car seats and crashes.” Simple benchmarks exist for determining a child’s need for a booster, but Jamie swears by a proper five-point test to be sure.

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A properly fitted booster seat is key to keeping smaller passengers safe. Image: Target

 

The first step is determining if your child can sit with their back against the car’s regular seats. The second test is to determine whether their knees can easily drape over the edge of the car seat. Being able to comfortably sit with their knees over the edge is a particularly easy tell as to whether a child is ready to ditch the booster. Some in the industry consider it beneficial if the child’s feet can rest neatly on the floor, but Jamie notes that it’s the knee position that is critical.

As you might expect, seatbelt fitment is critical, too. Step three involves checking whether the shoulder belt crosses the body at the hard part of the collarbone. If the child is too small, the seatbelt may cross at the neck, which is a big no-no. As for the lap belt, it should fit low and tight over the pelvis. It shouldn’t be cutting across the stomach or over the legs. If the belt doesn’t fit properly, injuries are more likely in the event of a crash.

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Proper shoulder belt fitment is critical.
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If the shoulder belt comes up on the neck, that’s a bad thing.
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Same for the lap belt.

Finally, emotional maturity is also a factor. Kids who aren’t able to routinely sit correctly in a regular car seat may not be safe to use one. If they’re likely to misplace or disregard their seatbelt, slump over, or otherwise sit incorrectly,  they might not be ready.

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As Jamie explains, the five-step test is a little bit more complicated than traditional rules of thumb, but there’s good reason for that. A commonly suggested  “rule” is that children under 4’9″ should use boosters, but such a simple measure kind of misses the point. Bodies are complex, and the real safety check is making sure the child’s body and the standard car seat are a match.

A proper booster seat is a key safety item. Beyond the five-step test, make sure you’re also familiar with how to install and seat your children in their booster correctly. Used properly, a booster seat is a great way to ensure your kids are safe while you’re motoring around.

Image credits: Jamie Grayson via Instagram Screenshot

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ClutchAbuse
ClutchAbuse
13 days ago

I’m having trouble understanding when I can move my daughter to a backless booster. Currently, she’s in one with a back, similar to the one from target pictured in this article. She seems to be hitting the upper end of what that can support.

Space
Space
12 days ago
Reply to  ClutchAbuse

If you follow this advice it seems to be when they can put their back flat on the seat. Depends on the seat of your car I suppose, mine was at 4.

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
12 days ago
Reply to  ClutchAbuse

for us the back had adjustments to raise it higher and higher. at some point it wouldn’t raise any higher so off the back went.

Mouse
Mouse
13 days ago

Per #3 I still need a booster seat. (I am not objecting to the rules. I just think it’s funny.)

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
12 days ago
Reply to  Mouse

i mean if you need one you need one…

Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
13 days ago

Well, my daughter just graduated with a bachelor’s in business, and my son is even older than her…so my kids are out of car seats.

Curtis Loew
Curtis Loew
13 days ago

Florida is up to 5. I have one turning 5 and will be done with the car seat in 4 months. 2 1/2 years left on the youngest one. My car only has lap belts so no worry about the shoulder strap. Yes I grew up riding in the cargo area of a station wagon and nobody thought anything of it. We survived. I do follow the laws, but am not a safety Nazi.

PeriSoft
PeriSoft
4 days ago
Reply to  Curtis Loew

The people who didn’t survive aren’t particularly vocal in the comment section, I’ll give you that.

Trevlington
Trevlington
13 days ago

In the UK we have clear rules based on height and age. Under 135cm and a seat is required. Unless you are over 12. Which is why my mother in law doesn’t require one. As the parent of a very small 136cm 11 year old, we are still using the seat and she is happy to, because it is more comfortable on her legs and the diagonal belt sits more comfortably. But I cannot believe how many parents are merrily putting younger and smaller children in their front passenger seat with no booster, primarily I think because the child doesn’t want to seem young.

Along with Martin, Dutch Gunderson, Lana and Sally Decker
Along with Martin, Dutch Gunderson, Lana and Sally Decker
13 days ago

My parents were ahead of the curve back in the 70s; they – and we – wore our seatbelts as far back as I can remember, which would have been MY1973 GM cars with lap belts all around and those non-retractable shoulder belts that no one ever used for the front passengers.

Ben
Ben
13 days ago

Kids who aren’t able to routinely sit correctly in a regular car seat may not be safe to use one.

I like the idea of forcing people who sit with their feet up on the dashboard, especially in cars with air bags, to use a booster seat (ideally an uncomfortable one) until they learn to sit in a car seat properly.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
13 days ago

I’m 40 so, like a lot of commenters, I remember when we were a lot more lax about safety.

But I also grew up with an ER nurse for a mom. A mom who insisted on scaring us straight with gruesome work stories. Nothing like eating Hamburger Helper while listening to a stories of brains and guts spilling out of people. I am so grateful for how safe things are today.

Cerberus
Cerberus
13 days ago

I had a booster seat in the ’70s, but that was when a kid today would normally have the full high altitude MACH 1+ rated ejection seat capsule. It was yellow plastic in an open “C” shape in plan view and “H” in frontal elevation with the horizontal line in the H being vertically offset from center with an ass print molded into each side so that it could be flipped upside down as the kid grew. The difference was probably only about 1.5″.

One of my earliest memories was being in it on the front seat when small birds flew into the windshield of my mother’s 1600 Capri. She tried to distract me as blood streamed across the glass with some shed feathers stuck in it. I think two smashed into the glass and another hit the chrome header trim across the top of the windshield and, thanks to the height afforded by the booster seat, I was able to turn around to see it tumble over the roof and down the rear window. I said something like, “That one is dead, too.” My mother was shocked at how well I remembered it when I told her decades later as she said I was only about 2 or maybe 3 at the time and not supposed to be able to form those kinds of memories. I was more surprised to find out that the concept of death is something even older kids don’t normally understand (like my nieces who are older than that and very smart, but maybe it’s because they’re so sheltered, IDK). I can’t recall a time of not being aware of it.

Pisco Sour
Pisco Sour
13 days ago

As a child of South America and from the 80s, wearing a seatbelt in the backseat was a foreign concept growing up. To this day, even though I do it now, it feels weird.

It used to be a hassle for my wife and me to get our kids to buckle up before we drove. What changed their minds was the recent video of the Kia getting launched into orbit on the 5…given it’s a highway we travel often, they got the message.

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
13 days ago

I’m going to use this. My ex-wife insists my 8-year-old daughter is too big to sit in a booster, and I had a feeling she was wrong. This is just what I need.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
13 days ago

A lot of parents want their kids out earlier than they should be. I wonder if it’s just because back when we were kids, no one used a booster beyond the infant/toddler car seats. I remember being 10-11 and wearing the shoulder strap behind my back because it crossed my neck.

DadBod
DadBod
13 days ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

I do not understand why certain parents think it’s some sort of milestone to ditch a booster seat. I know people who were all proud that little Timmy was finally out of his booster! (probably 2 years too early).

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
13 days ago
Reply to  DadBod

That’s the word I was looking for- milestone. Thank you!

My husband felt this way with our oldest. He wanted to turn her car seat around to be front-facing. I showed him statistics about the increased risk of decaptitation when too-small kids are facing front. It was a very short argument.

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
13 days ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

I grew up in the late ’80s – early ’90s, and I remember a fair amount of pressure coming from the school I attended to get kids out of booster seats so it was easier for them to enter/exit vehicles in the pickup/dropoff line. (Based on my height and weight, I should have been using a booster seat through 6th grade; my parents ditched it by the time I was in 2nd or 3rd grade.)

Bryan McIntosh
Bryan McIntosh
13 days ago

As yet another child of the 80s (born 1984), I remember always buckling up in the back seat of cars but we NEVER had a booster seat that I remember since that just wasn’t a thing. Once my kiddo outgrows his car seat he’s getting a booster, though, since I’d rather he not have broken bones because I didn’t feel like spending $100 or so on a booster seat.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
13 days ago

I’ve been an EMT since 2001. Working in the city I’ve been to more stupid fender benders and medium level crashes than I care to count. The condition of the people in the car is directly related to the safety features available on the vehicle, it’s condition, and the occupants use of those systems. Too many times parents have told me “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t think it really mattered.” Listen to what the guy in this video has to say, and tell your friends to do the same.

Ben
Ben
13 days ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

I wish everyone had to do a ridealong with a rescue squad as part of their driver training. If people saw the aftermath of accidents with and without seat belts we wouldn’t even need seat belt laws.

I’ve never been an EMT (I was just the test dummy when they were training new ones), but my Dad was and he really drove home how important seat belts are, based on years of experience cleaning up after car accidents.

DadBod
DadBod
13 days ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

AMEN

Fiji ST
Fiji ST
13 days ago

Wife and I were just talking about this the other day with my oldest. Funny how that works. Looks like she’s not ready according to this guy.

Nevermind
Nevermind
13 days ago

Whatever happened to babies riding in a cardboard box on the floor, behind the driver’s seat? That seemed safe enough for my generation, we all survived.

DadBod
DadBod
13 days ago
Reply to  Nevermind

You forgot the /s

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
13 days ago

Note the laws do vary by state so be sure to check yours. https://www.iihs.org/topics/child-safety#restraint-use

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
13 days ago
Reply to  Scoutdude

Excellent point. The guidelines noted in the article are absolutely valid and excellent, but some states have additional (and sometimes contradictory) requirements for child and booster seat usage.

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
13 days ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Thanks. I should add just because you live in a state with lax laws doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep your child in a booster until they meet the guidelines noted in this article.

Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
13 days ago

I remember when I was kid that my mom braked so hard that I ended up under the dashboard on the passenger seat. She tried to use her arm to stop me but well…

Now I strap the kids before even driving, and if one of them doesn’t want to wear the seatbelt I remember what happened to me and tap the brakes just to give them a remainder, then look back and give them the silent look of put your damn seatbelt or we are not going anywhere

Last edited 13 days ago by Mrbrown89
Tbird
Tbird
13 days ago
Reply to  Mrbrown89

Same – daughter is now 19 and we were vigilant about safety seats, belts, etc… as she grew.

Wife and I were both born in a different era. Even my little brother, born 1982, never had a car seat!

DadBod
DadBod
13 days ago
Reply to  Mrbrown89

I always remember a lecture on driving where the teacher asked if we could bench press 2,000lbs, because that’s what bracing against the dashboard in a crash would require.

WaitWaitOkNow
WaitWaitOkNow
13 days ago

This is the kind of stuff influencers should be talking about. NGL, TIL some things.

Tbird
Tbird
13 days ago
Reply to  WaitWaitOkNow

What! Actually benefit society as a whole?

J Money
J Money
13 days ago

And here comes the cavalcade of “when I was a kid!” comments…

WaitWaitOkNow
WaitWaitOkNow
13 days ago
Reply to  J Money

Seeing all 6 prior comments in the last 30 minutes to yours exemplifying this entirely is *chefs kiss*

Tbird
Tbird
13 days ago
Reply to  WaitWaitOkNow

We aim to please.

Tbird
Tbird
13 days ago

Grew up in days of “moms lap” and when older “dads arm” as safety restraints on the front bench. Smacked my head off a dash at least once.

When my daughter was born they would not discharge my wife from the hospital without us securing the newborn in a certified car seat (2005).

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
13 days ago
Reply to  Tbird

Scrolled down for Mom’s lap (and her Safety Arm!) comment.
Now content

Tbird
Tbird
13 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Things are MUCH better and safer now. It is amazing we all (well most of us) survived in the ’70s and ’80s. I remember dad hollering when seatbelts were mandated to be worn (maybe 1985ish).

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
13 days ago
Reply to  Tbird

Grew up in air-cooled VWs and therefore can’t remember a time we didn’t wear seatbelts.
-Well, there was a 40s Hudson in there: don’t think it had the belts

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
13 days ago
Reply to  Tbird

Only the people that survived are here to say “it’s amazing we all survived.” Survivorship bias, baby.

Michael Fortenbery
Michael Fortenbery
13 days ago

I can remember “driving” my Mom’s ’65 Chevy Impala, sitting on her lap with me pretending to drive on the public roads! (She was actually driving holding the bottom of the wheel.)
One of my first automotive memories! I was born in ’67 and she had the Impala until ’73.

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
13 days ago

When I was a kid, my mom had a 1987 RX-7 for a bit, it was a two seat version. I didn’t live with her at the time, so didn’t ride with her all that often, but occasionally I would and she would also have another adult passenger. I sat on top of the storage bins with no seat belt.

We have come a long way as a society in at least trying to be safer when it comes to vehicles.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
13 days ago

I’ve told the story here before, about standing in the front seat of my father’s VW Beetle and being ejected through the open sunroof during a panic stop. Now that’s a booster seat!

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
13 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Ejecto-seato, cuz!

DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
13 days ago

Hell, my parents just threw away the baby seat once I hit 2. And I had fun sliding around in the back seat of my dads LeMans.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
13 days ago

Thinking about the days when I would ride around standing up in the back seat to be able to see out the windows, no seat belt at all…

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