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Child Passenger Safety

Does My Child Need A Booster Seat? | FAQs

Fact: Most children between four and eight years old need to use a booster seat for maximum protection and improved comfort in the car.

Q: My child is already four years old. Isn't she old enough to use a regular safety belt now?

A: No. Vehicle seats and belts are designed for adult bodies. The booster raises the child up, which helps keep the lap belt on the upper thighs and the shoulder belt on the shoulder instead of the neck.

Q: Why is it important for children who have outgrown car seats to use boosters?

A: Children over four have a higher rate of injury than younger children for the following reasons: many of them place the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the back. They tend to ride out of position, either sliding forward to the edge of the vehicle seat or slouching downward. Fewer children in this age group are buckled up, perhaps because vehicle seats and belts are not comfortable for them.

Q: How can I tell when my child has outgrown his/her car seat?

A: Children should ride in a car seat with a complete harness system generally until they reach 40 pounds. Parents should consider switching the child to a forward facing only combination booster seat when the child is too tall for the seat. The child is too tall for the seat if the head is not supported (at least up to the ears) or the shoulders are above the top slots.

Q: How can I tell when my child is big enough to use the vehicle seat without a booster?

A: The fit depends on the height of the child, the shape of the vehicle seat, and where the belts are attached to the vehicle. The shoulder belt should cross the center of the shoulder and chest, not the arm or neck. The lap portion of the belt should be low, and snug crossing the hip bones or upper thighs. Finally, check that your child's legs are long enough so the knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat.

Q: What about cars with only lap belts in the back seat?

A: Never use a booster seat with only a lap belt! Although two shoulder belts have been required in vehicle seats since 1989, many families have cars with lap-only belts in the center rear seat, or older cars with no shoulder belts. Lap only belts are better then no restraint at all 

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IPS office hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 5 pm.