From Child-Safety Seat to Booster Seat

Making the transition from a child-safety seat to a booster seat depends on your child's size. Kerry Chausmer, safety certification manager with Safe Kids, said parents should use these devices until a child reaches the seat's outer weight and height limits. In other words, if the seat is good for children who weigh 30 to 40 pounds, don't take your child out when he passes 30 pounds; instead, wait and take him out when he reaches 40 pounds.

Child-Seat Installation
Most local fire and police departments hold free child-safety seat checkup events in which experts meet with parents and offer instruction and advice. Check www.seatcheck.org for events in your area.

Chausmer also said it's unwise to keep a child who exceeds the device's recommended weight limit in the seat. The reason: These seats aren't crash-tested beyond the recommended weight limits.

Parents should also keep an eye on how their child fits in the safety seat. If your child's shoulders are above the harness slots or his ears have reached the top of the seat, then it's time to move to a booster seat, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

NHTSA recommends that all children ride in booster seats until they're at least 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall.

NHTSA recommends that all children ride in booster seats until they're at least 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall.

Laws vary from state to state regarding how long children must remain in safety seats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that all children ride in booster seats until they're at least 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall.

The safest option is to keep your child in a safety seat until your vehicle's seat belt fits the youngster properly. AAP indicates that the proper fit is when the shoulder belt hits mid-chest and shoulder (and not at the neck or throat), the lap portion of the belt is low across the thighs (and not the stomach) and children are tall enough to sit against the backrest with their legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down.

Should I Consider Buying a Used Safety Seat?

Some child-safety seat technicians say that putting a child in a used seat isn't worth the risk, while other experts say it's a viable option if parents follow these guidelines and scrutinize a device before buying it:

  • The seat must have its original label, which should list the model number and manufacturing date.
  • If you didn't get the original owner's manual with the used seat, get a copy online or contact the manufacturer.
  • Don't use any seat that is more than 6 years old because parts can break down over time.
  • Check www.nhtsa.gov to make sure the child seat hasn't been recalled.
  • Find out the seat's crash history. If you can't find the original owner or the seat has been involved in a crash, don't use it.
Posted on 8/5/05