Car Seat Confusion Be Gone!
My son: Mom, when I turn 8 years old, I don’t need to use my booster anymore right?
Me: umm...yes and no?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), kids need to stay in a booster seat until they are able to wear a seat belt properly.
This means when the seatbelt is strapped on, the lap belt needs to lie across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt across the shoulder and chest.
So it doesn’t matter if the kid is 8 years old. The most important criteria is that the seatbelt is in the proper position.
In response to my son…
"Yes, mommy knows some kids don't need to be in a booster seat once they turn 8 years old, but because your seat belt is too close to your neck, you need to stay in your booster for just a little while longer."
I was expecting some resistance but he took it pretty well.
The next day, he wanted to try sitting again without the booster to see if he grew any. LOL!
(Notice with the image on the left, the shoulder belt is not where it should be, confirming that my hunch was correct. He needs to stay in his booster!)
It’s definitely a common question that even parents ask themselves though when their child reaches a certain car seat milestone.
“What age can my child legally go from rear facing to forward facing?”
“What is the age and weight limit on when kids can move out of carseats or boosters?”
“When can they sit in the front seat?”
It’s understandable to forget the exact weight and height requirements for each milestone. I have to remind myself all the time.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends children stay rear facing at least until they reach the max height or weight limit of the manufacturers car seat guidelines.
In some states, like California, it’s required that kids stay rear facing until at least 2 years old UNLESS the child weighs more than 40 lbs or is more than 40 inches tall.
For the average kid, that’s pretty much 4-5 years old already so expect your child to be rear facing until they are 2 years old.
So here are the nuts and bolts of it:
- For optimal safety, plan to have your child stay rear facing until they are at least 2 years old. In some states, this is required.
- Which means if you’re shopping for a new car seat, look for ones that have a higher max height/weight limit. There are car seats that go up to 30lbs and up to 32”.
- Kids should stay in their forward facing car seat until they have outgrown the max height or weight limit of their car seat.
- Then it is a booster seat until they can wear a seat belt properly on their own. This is typically anywhere from 8-12 years old. In California, they also need to be at least 4’9”.
- The NHTSA recommends that you keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12. There are no hard rules for kids sitting in the front seat, but the general consensus is that they are always safer sitting in the back.
The main thing to keep in mind for all these different milestones is that with each advancement, the level of safety and protection decreases.
As much as we look forward to not having to deal with car seats, especially traveling with them, it really is in their best interest to keep them in their appropriate car seats for as long as possible.
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