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Booster Seat Safety - CHI 1350

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Topic: General Child Health

This handout was written to answer some of the questions most often asked about booster seat safety.  Feel free to ask your child’s health care provider to go over any information you do not understand.

Why does my child need a booster seat?

Safety belts are designed for adults.  Children should ride with a booster seat so the shoulder belt and lap belt fit properly for the best protection. A booster seat does exactly what it says; it boosts your child up so that your vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt hold him or her safely.  Depending on the age and size of the child, car seats or booster seats provide the best protection and hold children securely in a vehicle.

Does your child need a booster seat? Take this 5-step test:

1. Does your child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do your child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can your child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, your child is not ready to use seat belts and needs a booster seat.  Once children outgrow their front-facing seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly.  Ohio’s booster seat law requires children younger than 8 and under 4’9” tall to ride in a booster seat.

How do I know if the booster seat fits correctly?

1. Put your child on the booster seat and fasten the lap and shoulder seat belts around the child.
2. Use the seat belt guides on the booster seat for the lap and shoulder belts.
3. Check to be sure the lap belt rests on the top of the child’s thighs or low on the hips.
4. Check to be sure the shoulder belt is on the bony part of the shoulder—not on the neck or face. Never place the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the back.

If the shoulder belt and lap belt are on the child as stated above, the booster seat will work as designed to protect your child in a crash. If the booster seat does not fit correctly, try another brand until you find the one that fits your child.

Remember: Booster seats must be worn with both lap and shoulder belts at all times. If a booster seat is not fitting your child correctly, he or she may want to put the shoulder belt behind his or her neck. If this happens, you may need to look for a car seat (not a booster seat) with a higher weight limit until the booster sit fits your child.

Where did 8 years/ 4’9” requirement come from?

Children are ready for lap and shoulder belts alone when they can place their backs firmly against the vehicle seat back cushion with their knees bent comfortably over the vehicle seat cushion (See the 5-step test above). Lap belts should fit low and snug on the upper thighs and shoulder belts should rest over the shoulder and across the chest.  Research shows that for most children, good fit is achieved by the time a child reaches 8 years of age or earlier if the child has reached 4’9”.  
How can I get my child to ride in a booster seat?

1. Tell your child that they will be able to see more out the window now that they have an extra boost.
2. Let your child decorate his or her booster seat using stickers, markers or paint.
3. Be consistent.  Do not let your child ride in another vehicle that does not have a booster seat. 

This handout is for general information only and should not be considered complete. For specific information about booster seat safety, please ask your child’s health care provider.

Additional information and resources are available in the Family Resource Center at Dayton Children's.  The center is open Monday 9:00 am - 8:00 pm; Tuesday - Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm; Saturdays 9:00 am–2:00 pm. The center is closed on Sundays and holidays.  Please call 937-641-3700 for more information.

Copyright The Children's Medical Center of Dayton.  This material is for educational purposes only.  It cannot be reproduced or distributed without permission from Dayton Children’s.

PDF: Booster Seat Safety - CHI 1350

Derechos de autor(c) de The Children's Medical Center, ano 1999. Este material unicamente tiene fines educativos. No puede ser reproducido, distribuido ni modificado sin previa autorizacion de The Children's Medical Center of Dayton, One Children's Plaza, Dayton, Ohio, 45404-1815. Llame al 937-641-3666 para solicitar autorizacion o para obtener un juego maestro para copias. Para obtener mas informacion puede visitar (consulte la seccion de informacion legal).

La informacion contenida en este material es unicamente informacion de tipo general. No debe considerarse como completa. Para obtener mas informacion acerca de los complementos para leche materna, por favor pidala a su doctor.
Corregido: 2008
Revisado: 2011

The information contained in this handout is for general information only and should not be considered complete. For specific information about bathing your baby, please ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Additional information may be located in the Family Resource Center, 2nd floor, near the Outpatient Surgery Center. Hours of the center vary; please contact the Family Resource Center at 937-641-3700.

Copyright(c) The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. This material is for educational purposes only. It cannot be reproduced or distributed without permission from Dayton Children's.
Revised: 2008
Reviewed: 2011


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