Moving from a booster to a seatbelt (when and how)
Car seat ages can be very helpful guidelines for maximising your children’s safety as they grow; however, while it’s generally accepted that children aged between 4 and 7 years are safe to ride in a booster seat, the only truly accurate measure of the right position for your child is their weight. In other words, the right age for booster seat usage, and any other specific type of restraint will vary according to a child’s physical proportions. Some intro text here.
Toddlers weighing up to 65 pounds are generally safe to ride in a forward-facing convertible car seat and should be moved into a booster seat as soon as they exceed the weight limit for their specific car seat. A booster seat can look quite similar to a car seat and is designed to elevate a child in the car so that the adult seatbelt sits better around them and is safer for them to wear. For the average child, booster-seat age can last five years or longer before they graduate to a seat-free riding phase, so it’s well worth investing in a good quality booster seat.
For those with a restless toddler, a backless booster seat offers an alternative between a full booster seat and seat-free driving. The design is similar to a second seat bottom which can be strapped into your car just like an ordinary children’s car seat. These are intended to give your child extra height and allow the adult seat restraint to fit better, and they might seem like a natural stage in the transition towards car seat-free driving since they also allow for a little extra freedom. The same age and weight limitations as for a regular booster seat apply to the use of backless design, meaning any child under 4.9 metres tall and over 30 kilograms in weight; however, there have been concerns raised over the years about the comparative safety standards of these alternatives. The problem is that they give significantly less neck and back support than a full booster seat, which could be dangerous or even life-threatening for a child involved in an accident, particularly in a side-on collision.
When you think your child might be ready for a road trip minus the car seat, a few practical checks can help in determining whether they meet physical safety requirements. Firstly, they should be at or above a height of 1.45 metres, which, for most children, happens around the age of 10. Secondly, they must be able to sit with their back flat against the seat, legs bending over the seat edge, and seatbelt running over the middle of their shoulders. If this is a comfortable position for your child, they should be safe in a regular seat, and ready to say goodbye to their child restraint for good. Just remember that being safe in a regular car seat doesn’t mean your child is safe in the front. Even though the law states that children aged 7 and older are legally allowed to sit in the front seat, the fact remains that the back is far safer for any child aged 12 or younger.