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Car Seat Safety for Big Kids

Most children are not ready for a seat belt alone until they are 10 to 12 years old!

Booster vs. Harness

  • “Harness” refers to the 5-point system of straps in rear facing and some front facing seats

  • “Booster” is a seat that allows a vehicle’s seat belt to fit a child properly

Moving from harness to booster

  • A lap-only belt does not provide necessary protection, and should be avoided unless installing a harnessed (rear- or front-facing) seat

  • A booster seat can have a high back or be backless (start with high back)

  • Harness until your car seat’s height or weight limit (purchase a new seat to harness longer if necessary)

  • Move to a booster no sooner than age 5—start booster training around age 5-7

  • A good seat belt fit with a booster includes child’s back against the vehicle (if backless booster) or booster seat (if high back)

Whether using a booster or seat belt alone, check for proper belt fit:

  • Child must be able to stay in position for the entire trip

  • Child’s knees should bend at edge of seat

  • Shoulder portion of belt must be between shoulder and neck

  • Lap portion of belt should be low on hips, touching thighs

Without a booster, a proper belt fit should also include:

  • Child’s feet must touch the floor

  • Child must be at least 4’9”

  • Children are usually ready to skip the booster around puberty, age 10-12

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