This question is fresh on my mind since my oldest is fast-approaching the 8-year mark. For some reason, she has in her head that once she is 8, she will be free from a booster seat. In some situations, I think this is a fine rule of thumb and technically, if your child turns 8 or hits 80 pounds and is 4’9″, they aren’t legally required to use a booster seat any longer. However, I think we all need to seriously consider this decision before taking the path of least resistance.
I turn to BuckleUpNC.org for all of my carseat safety questions. According to this NC Government site, SafetyBeltSafe USA has developed a simple “5-Step Test” that will shed some light on your decision:
1) Does your 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) Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and the arm?
4) Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5) Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then your child needs a booster seat to ride safely in the car. Height is an extremely important factor here and is often overlooked with the “8 or 80” question. In addition, consider the make of your car. For example, my daughter meets all of the requirements above in our sedan, but is not even close in our SUV. Her knees stick straight out and she just isn’t tall enough to have proper alignment of the shoulder belt. Another factor is age of your child. If your child blows past 80 lbs but is nowhere near 8 years old, think about how easily she can maneuver out of her straps. It takes a mature and disciplined child to remain properly restrained in a car for a long period of time. Not to mention, the sleep factor. There is nowhere for your child to rest their head when they are just in a seatbelt or even a backless booster seat.
In my opinion, it’s always best to err on the safe side – especially when safety is involved. I joke with my husband that my almost 6-year-old will be in a booster seat when she gets her driver’s license because she is so petite! But that’s her deal and she’s just going to have to live with it. In my car, it’s 8 years old AND 80 pounds AND all of those requirements mentioned above. What do you think?
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We’ve been talking about this a lot lately since my 6 1/2 yo is solid for his age and tall so he’s counting the pounds until he’s 80. I guess there’s something magical in their minds about thwarting the booster, but I appreciate this piece. Has given me some things to look for and think about when that time comes.
Thanks for this information! I am going through the same thing with my daughter. I’ll have her read this article.BTW, Happy early Birthday to your oldest. 🙂