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Rules on Booster Seats

By Shannon Cate ; Updated April 18, 2017
When your child outgrows her toddler car seat, she'll need a booster seat.

Children who have reached the height and weight limits of their toddler car seats are ready for booster seats. Booster seats are designed for children who have outgrown toddler car seats, but have not reached the right height and weight to wear an ordinary seat belt safely. Some states require booster seats by law and others are working on similar legislation. Whether required by law or not, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advises the use of booster seats for children between the ages of about four and about eight years old.

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Guidelines for Booster Seats

The NHTSA recommends booster seats for children over 40 pounds. Most children are about four years old when they reach this point. According to the agency, children under 4 feet 9 inches tall and less than 80 pounds should use booster seats. Once they reach 4 feet, 9 inches tall and 80 pounds, regular seat belts will fit children properly. Most children reach this height around age eight.

Types of Booster Seats

Booster seats come in two main types. Some have high backs and can be buckled in four or five points like infant and toddler car seats. Some booster seats have no back and only use the car's lap and shoulder belt to restrain the child. All booster seats are designed for the back seat.

When Children Outgrow Booster Seats

Children should still sit in the back seat of the car and wear the car's regular seat belts, even after they outgrow the need for booster seats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children under age 13 always sit in the back seat.

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About the Author

Based in Chicago, Shannon Cate has been writing on family, parenting, politics and religions since 2000. Her work has appeared on Babble, BlogHer, Literary Mama, Gay Chicago Magazine and elsewhere. Cate holds a Doctor of Philosophy in American literature from the George Washington University.

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