Booster Car Seats

Although many of us fondly remember jostling around in the back seat of the family car during our own childhood, the days of riding wild and free are long gone – we now have booster seats. What we didn't realize then was that seat belts are designed to fit adult bodies, not a child's body. Luckily, we have figured this out now when there are more cars on the road and children spend more time in the car than ever before.

A booster seat does exactly what the name says it does: it boosts your child up so the lap and shoulder belts in your car fit them properly. A seat belt can injure your child in a crash. Without a booster, the lap belt rests on your child's tummy which could cause stomach, liver, or spleen damage in a crash. If the shoulder belt rests against your child's neck rather than chest, as it may without a booster seat, your child may move the belt under their arm where it may be more comfortable, but it could crack ribs and damage internal organs in a crash.

Now that we are aware of these problems, it is law in most areas for all children to ride in a booster seat until they're at least 80 pounds and 4 feet 9 inches tall, typically around 8 years of age. Your child's ears should not be higher than the back seat cushion of your car or the back of a high-back booster seat. The booster seat should sit flat against the seat in the back of your car and should not tip over. The safest place for a booster seat is in the center of the back seat. If your car only has only a lap belt in the center seat, position the booster on the right side of your back seat. A lap belt should never be used on its own to anchor a booster seat. If your car's back seat is only equipped with lap belts, you may want to get a new car, or have your car retro-fitted with shoulder belts.

There are two types of booster seats: high-back or chair-style seats and backless seats. High-back booster seats support your child's bum, torso, neck, and head. Backless booster seats raise your child's bum so they sit higher in your car's seat. If the back seat of your car has a low back, a high-back booster seat will provide much needed head and neck support in a rear collision. If your back seats are high enough to support your child's head and neck but are contoured, a backless booster seat will sit more snugly on the seat allowing your child to sit further back in the seat, and is less likely to tip over than a high-back seat. Backless booster seats are also well suited to cars with built-in head support.

Some booster seats have a positioning guide for your car's shoulder belt. Most convertible car seats and high-back boosters have belt positioning guides at varying heights which position the shoulder belt across your child's chest. If your booster seat has a guide, make sure it allows the seat belt to retract easily. Backless boosters should have a separate belt-positioning clip and handles or guides near your child's hips to position the lap belt and the lower end of the shoulder belt.

There are convertible car seats with a 5-point harness that convert into a belt-positioning booster seat. When your child is ready to use the booster seat, the five-point harness is removed and the lap-and-shoulder belts in your car are used to secure the seat and your child.

All convertible cat seats must use the LATCH attachment system if made after September 2002. Since September 2002, all new car seats and vehicles have been compatible with the LATCH system. Convertible car seats that convert to a booster seat are required to have the lower anchors and the top anchor. Booster seats are not required to use the LATCH system.

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