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Booster Seats: All You Need to Know

small baby riding inside a car in seat

First-time parents often do a tremendous amount of research on car seats before they hop behind the wheel with their new baby. As the baby grows, further research is needed to determine when it is time for the child to move from a baby car seat to a booster seat. Parents also may wonder how long the booster seat is necessary.

There is lots of conflicting information out there, so parents must make the right decisions to ensure their child is protected. 

What Types of Car Seats Do I Need?

There are several car seats your child will use throughout their early years. These include:

1. Infant car seat. The first car seat your baby will use is a rear-facing infant car seat. According to the car seat requirements set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, your infant or toddler should ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible based on their height and weight. This means all children will be using a rear-facing car seat until the age of two and most until four. 

2. Toddler car seat. Once your child outgrows the baby car seat, they can begin using a forward-facing toddler car seat, which can accommodate children of up to 60 pounds. 

3. Booster seat. If your child exceeds the limits for a forward-facing seat, they are ready to upgrade to a belt-positioning booster seat. Parents will have the option to choose between a backless booster and a high back booster.       

What is a Booster Seat?

We all know that seat belts save lives, but many people don’t realize they can become dangerous when they do not fit properly. A booster seat is a device designed to position the standard adult seat belts in your vehicle on your child’s body’s correct position. 

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, children who use a booster seat are 45% less likely to be injured in a car accident than children who only use a seat belt. 

When Can a Child Stop Using Booster Seats?

Booster seat laws and child passenger safety laws vary from state to state. Generally, children are required to be in a booster seat until the age of 8 to 12. 

Beyond age, parents should also consider their child’s size. For example, a child should continue to use a booster seat until a vehicle’s standard lap and shoulder belt properly fit them. A great way to test the proper fit of a vehicle’s seat belt is the Five-Step Test. 

small child in car seat

The Five-Step Seat Belt Fit Test 

If your child passes the following five checkpoints, then they are ready to move out of their booster seat and onto using a seat belt on its own: 

  1. Be sure the shoulder belt crosses between the neck and shoulder. 
  2. Ensure that the child can sit with their lower back against the vehicle’s seat. 
  3. Check that the lap belt stays on their upper thighs. 
  4. Make sure that the child’s knees bend comfortably against the edge of the seat. 
  5. Be sure the child can remain in this position for the entire length of the ride.

If any of these checkpoints are a concern, parents should continue using a booster seat until their child is ready. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. Many of these deaths can be prevented through the proper use of restraints. Follow these guidelines to protect your child as much as possible in the event of an accident. 

Make sure you have the peace of mind of a quality car insurance policy with USAgencies. Start your free Alabama car insurance quote online, over the phone, or at one of our offices near you.