Booster Seats

Transitioning from a forward-facing seat to a booster


  • Always use your forward-facing car seat to the maximum height or weight limit before moving your child to a booster seat. Always follow the age, weight, height and other guidelines provided by the car seat manufacturer.
  • Seat belts are made for adults. A booster seat protects children that are too large for a forward-facing car seat but too small for a seat belt. Watch this video.
  • A booster seat “boosts” the child so that the seat belt can fit across the strongest bones of the body.

Car Seat Recommendations

Why Children Should Be In a Booster Seat Until the Seat Belt Fits Correctly

  • A child ready to use an adult seat belt without the aid of a booster seat will be around 4′ 9″ tall. Please keep in mind that because children do vary in size by age, some children could still need a booster seat at the age of 10 or 11.

  • After the age of 5, fatalities for unrestrained children continue to increase through age 19. In addition, the rate of misuse of these life-saving devices is shown to be approximately 84 percent. (Utah Highway Safety Office)

  • Restraint use for children driven by a belted driver is higher (92 percent) than for those with an unbelted driver (54 percent).

  • Booster seats “boost” children up to allow proper fit for the lap and shoulder belt. This also makes it easier for them to see out of the window better.

  • Older kids get weighed and measured less often than babies, so check your child’s growth a few times a year. Generally, kids need to use a booster until they are about 4′ 9″ tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds.

Selecting The Correct Booster Seat For Your Child

Basically, there are two types of booster seats: high-back booster seats and base booster seats. However, there are many styles of booster seats on the market for parents to choose from. Carefully study the different booster seats available to find the one best suited for your child and your vehicle. Also, be sure to read your vehicle owner’s manual for information on boosters in your vehicle. Always follow the age, weight, height and other guidelines provided by the car seat manufacturer.

High-Back Booster

  • This type of seat helps prevent whiplash in children who ride in vehicles without back-seat head restraints
  • Provides head restraint and a guide that helps keep the shoulder belt in place and more head protection for younger children

Base Boosters

  • A base booster, also called a backless booster, is very inexpensive and is often preferred among older children because they look less like a car seat.
  • Some base boosters are built into vehicle seats.
  • In general, children must be at least 40 lbs. before they can safely use this type of booster seat.

Installing a Booster Seat

  • Always read and follow your booster’s seat instructions.
  • ALWAYS use a lap and shoulder belt when placing your child in a booster seat.
  • When using a backless or no-back booster seat, the child MUST sit where a head restraint is available in order to prevent whiplash or other head and neck injuries.

Securing Your Child

  • Booster seats MUST be worn with a lap and shoulder belt. NEVER use a lap-only seat belt with your booster seat.
  • Place the lap belt low over your child’s hips. The shoulder belt must come across the middle of the chest, and not across the neck or face.
  • The shoulder belt should never be worn under the arm or behind the back.
  • The child’s ears should not be above the back of the vehicle seat or top of the head restraint when sitting on the booster seat.

Children should be in a booster seat until  the seat belt fits them correctly, usually 4’9″. Follow this step-by-step test to see if your child fits the seat belt correctly.

Booster Car Seats

Special Considerations

  • It is recommended that children under the age of 13 ride properly restrained in a back seat.
  • If a child younger than 13 must ride in the front seat, the child must be correctly restrained by the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt and the vehicle seat must be moved back as far as possible from the dashboard.
  • Turn off the front passenger’s airbag for young front-seat passengers. Click here for information on airbags.
  • When the booster seat is not being used, always buckle it in place. In the event of a crash, any loose object, including a booster seat that is not secured, can fly around the car and seriously injure or kill a passenger.

Booster Seat FAQs

If a child meets the requirements to use a booster, then he/she needs to be in a booster at all times while riding in a passenger vehicle, even if you’re going around the corner to drop your child off at school or a friend’s house or to pick up groceries at the local store.

If a child needs a booster at any time, then he/she needs a booster ALL the time. If you don’t have enough boosters, never hesitate to borrow one from the families you are carpooling with. In fact, according to Utah’s laws, if all the children in the carpool cannot be properly restrained, then they shouldn’t be in the car.

In this case, the child is 33 pounds and has not outgrown the harness in the car seat even though he is 4 years old. He can and should continue using his existing five-point harness car seat until it is outgrown. His harness may protect him until he weighs 40, 60 or even 80 pounds, depending on the limits for his specific car seat. Parents should always check their child’s harnessed car seat to learn what the upper weight limits are for that particular seat. Do not rush to remove a child from the harnessed car seat into the booster seat just because he turns 4. The harness and car seat shell afford a child much more protection as long as it is not outgrown. Signs that a child has outgrown his forward-facing harness car seat include: surpassing the height or weight requirement for the seat, the ears have reached the top of the seat and/or the child’s shoulders are above the top harness slots. When a parent notices any of these things, it is necessary to obtain a new, properly fitting seat.

Actually, the height of the child is the most important factor in determining whether the child has outgrown the need for a booster seat. When a child reaches approximately 4′ 9″ tall, the adult safety belt should fit properly.

There are several factors to consider when purchasing a booster seat. If your vehicle has a head restraint (head rest) in the seating position where the booster seat will be placed, you can use either a backless or no back booster. Never place a child in a backless booster if there is not a head restraint because there is no protection for the head and neck for a child that is “boosted” up.

High-back boosters generally have lower weight limits of 30 pounds, whereas the lower limit of backless or no back booster seat is generally 40 pounds. It comes down to: what fits your vehicle, your child, and is something that will be used every trip.

No, booster seats need both lap and shoulder belts but there are special restraints available that can be used with only lap belts, such as harness vests or higher harness weight child safety seats. Click here for more information.

No. Seat belts were designed to secure one person. Every person in a vehicle should have his or her own seat belt. In the event of a motor vehicle crash, sharing a seat belt can cause extreme injury and even death as the two sharing the seat belt crash into each other.

The key to this question is the word “safely”. Utah law requires children to ride in appropriate car seats until they are 8 years of age. Unfortunately, most children younger than age 8 do not fit properly in an adult-size safety belt. Seat belts were designed for the average-sized adult, not a child. Safety experts highly advise all parents to keep their children in booster seats until they are at least 4’9” tall. Booster seats “boost” the child so the lap and shoulder belt fit safely over the strongest parts of their body. Click here for more information on booster seats and seat belt use for children.

Safety advocates recommend that children under the age of 13 should ride properly restrained in the back seat, which is generally the safest place in the vehicle. While some states require this by law, Utah law does not specify where in the vehicle a child is required to ride. The law does require that children younger than age 8 ride in an appropriate car seat or booster seat that is used according to the owner’s manuals. Remember, all rear-facing seats are prohibited from being used on the front seat of the vehicle if there is a passenger airbag. The only way the rear-facing safety seat can be legally and properly installed on the front seat of a vehicle is to manually turn the airbag to the “off” position. Some manufacturers prohibit using their products in certain seating positions of different vehicles. If a child younger than age 13 must ride in the front seat, be sure the vehicle seat is pushed as far back as possible and that the child is properly restrained in a car seat, booster seat or lap and shoulder belt.

No, Utah law requires all car seats to be installed according to the manufacturers’ instructions and all of the manufacturers prohibit installing safety seat systems on side-facing or rear-facing vehicle seats.

Large school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds) are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than do passenger cars and light trucks. Because of these differences, the crash forces experienced by occupants of buses are much less than that experienced by occupants of passenger cars, light trucks or vans. Large school buses protect its passengers through a concept called “compartmentalization.” Occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.

Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.

Yes. As required by Federal safety standards, all passenger vans and small buses (weighing less than 10,000 pounds GVWR) are equipped with seat belts and are not exempt from the law. Children younger than age 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat. However, in seating positions with only lap belts children should secure the lap belt low and snug on their hips or a car seat with higher weight limits on the internal harness should be purchased. Boosters must be used with both lap and shoulder belts, never with lap belts alone. For more information regarding pupil transportation, please contact the Utah State Office of Education’s Pupil Transportation Division at 801-538-7500. Click here for more information.

Car seats and booster seats in a vehicle always have to be replaced after a moderate or severe crash. Always check with the car seat manufacturer for recommendations if the crash was minor. NHTSA recommends the following criteria for assessing a child restraint in a minor crash:

  • No visible cracks or deformities can be seen by inspecting the car seat or booster seat
  • The vehicle involved in the crash can be driven from the scene
  • The vehicle door nearest the car seat is undamaged
  • There were no occupant injuries
  • Airbags didn’t deploy


After a crash, talk to your vehicle insurance company to discuss options for a car seat and/or booster replacement.