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This is How to Safely Transition Your Child to a Booster Seat

This is How to Safely Transition Your Child to a Booster Seat

There’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to child safety in vehicles, so when is it safe for your child to transition to a booster seat?

Safety always takes a front seat when it comes to traveling in cars with children. But there's more to keeping your child safe and secure than just using a car seat. There is the legal, practical, and important progression when transitioning from a car seat to a booster seat that parents must follow to ensure optimum safety for their children—even when traveling in ride share services, such as Uber or Lyft

The type of seat your child needs depends on several things, including age, size, and development needs, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Additionally, New York State law requires:

  • All children younger than 4 ride in child safety seats

  • All children ride in child restraint systems until their 8th birthday

When to Transition to a Booster Seat

So, what is the difference between car and booster seats, and when and how should they be used? A car seat is installed in the car, whether for infants or toddlers, that has its own 5-point harness as the child’s safety restraint. A booster seat, for young children, uses the vehicle’s seat belt as the child’s safety restraint.

Christine Nastasi, R.N., B.S.N., T.C.R.N., C.P.E.N., pediatric trauma coordinator at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, located in Stony Brook on Long Island, says it's important to follow the height- and weight-based specifications for the seats to be used based on the manufacturer.

“Convertible child safety seats are normally for infants or toddlers who weigh approximately forty

pounds or less,” Nastasi says. “For infants, face these seats toward the rear of the vehicle. Follow manufacturer instructions to adjust the seat as the child grows.” 

For the best possible protection, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recommends children continue to face the rear for as long as possible up to the weight and height limits specified by the seat manufacturer, at least until age 2.

“For toddlers, you can change a convertible seat to face the front of the vehicle,” Nastasi says.

Booster Seat Safety 

Booster seats are for children who have outgrown convertible or toddler seats, according to the NYS DMV. They are for children ages 4-8, who weigh 40-80 pounds, and are shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches. Booster seats are used until the child is large enough to use an adult seat belt correctly, without the extra help from the booster seat. And once the child has grown out of a booster seat, it’s safer for them to sit in the backseat until they reach certain age and height guidelines. Always use both the shoulder and lap belts with a booster seat. Never use only the lap belt with a booster seat, according to the DMV.

Whatever type of restraint system your child uses, it's important to make sure your car seat is installed properly and correctly. This includes reading the instructions and information provided in the vehicle owner manual about the use of child safety seats or child restraint systems, according to the NYS DMV.

More information about car seats and child-safety restraint systems in New York state can be found on the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee website. Information about car seats and child-safety restraint systems in other states can be found online at the Governors Highway Safety Association.

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Barbara Russo

Author: Barbara Russo is a freelance writer who holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the City University of New York. She enjoys playing guitar, following current events, and hanging out with her pet rabbits. See More

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