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Back to School With a Boost

As the beginning of the school year draws near, parents and children alike are storming the stores for all the back to school gear they will require. High on most priority lists are clothes, shoes, notebooks, pens, pencils, and highlighters. The one item some parents may not have thought about is a booster seat. School-age children, who have outgrown car seats with a harness, need to use a booster seat to ride safely.

A 2003 study by Partners for Passenger Safety ( found that 100 % of children below 1 year of age and 96% of 3 year olds involved in traffic collisions had been using a car seat or booster seat at the time of a crash. However, only 59% of 5-year-olds, 14% of 7-year-olds, and 9% of 8-year-olds were restrained at the time of the crash. Most people are well aware of the need for infants, toddlers and small children to be in a car seat that is appropriate for their age and weight. Regrettably, few parents understand that most children need booster seats until they are age 8-11, depending on the child’s size and how the vehicle seat belt fits.

California law requires that children ride properly restrained in the back seat until they are at least 6 years old or weigh 60 pounds. California is one of 33 states that require use of a booster or other child restraint beyond age 4; some states have increased the requirement to age 8. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) recommends that ALL children age 12 and under ride in the back seat. A recent study suggests that children ride in the back seat longer – until they are at least 15 years old.

By law, older children must also ride properly buckled up. Regardless of age or size, if the seat belt does not fit correctly because the child is too small, too thin or just not mature enough to sit in a seat belt correctly, the parent or driver can be fined more than $350. Even more tragically, the child could be injured or killed if there is a car crash. So, before you move your child out of a booster seat, try the 5 Step test. Ask your child to sit using the vehicle lap and shoulder belt without the booster. If you answer “NO” to any of the questions below, your child still needs to ride in a booster seat.

5-Step Test

  1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?

  2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?

  3. Is the shoulder belt centered on the shoulder and chest?

  4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?

  5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

Booster seats come in a wide array of shapes and sizes, including high back, backless and high back with removable back. The backless booster might be a good choice for carpools and play dates. It may be preferred by an older child since it cannot readily be seen from outside the car.

For more information or a low cost car seat or booster, call Safely on the Move at (619) 594-0784 or toll free (866) 700-7686 or visit

About the Article:
This information provided by the San Diego State University Foundation.

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