4-7 Years | Forward-Facing & Booster Seat

Transitioning from a foward-Facing seat to a booster

A booster seat is a great transition from a forward-facing car seat to a booster seat. Seat belts are made for adults, and a booster seat protects children that are too large for a forward-facing car seat but too small for a seat belt. A booster seat “boosts” the child so that the seat belt can fit across the strongest bones of the body.

  • 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.


  • 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.
  • Nationally, 89 percent of children ages 4-7 ride in the back seat
  • Restraint use for children driven by a belted driver is higher (92 percent) than for those with an unbelted driver (54 percent).
  • Booster seats serve as an important middle step between a car seat with harness and a vehicle's lap and shoulder belt without a booster seat.
  • Children using a booster seat is more comfortable for children and allows them to see out of the window better because they are "boosted up."
  • 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 installing child restraints and boosters in your vehicle. Always follow the age, weight, height and other guidelines provided by the car seat manufacturer. The following are descriptions of the main types of booster seats, all of which "boost" your child up so the vehicle's seat belt fits better.

High-Back Booster

High-Back Booster

In general, high-back booster seats can be used for children who weigh 30 to 100 pounds. This type of seat helps prevent whiplash in children who ride in vehicles without back-seat head restraints, which can be found in some mini-vans, wagons and sport-utility vehicles. These boosters usually have a guide that helps keep the shoulder belt in place and more head protection for younger children.

Combination Seat

Combination Seat

A combination seat, also a high-back booster, converts from a forward-facing toddler seat to a booster and comes equipped with a removable harness. With the harness in place, this type of seat can be used for children who are at least one year of age and at least 22 pounds up to about age four and 40 pounds or more, depending on the seat. When the child outgrows the toddler seat, the harness can be removed and the seat can be used as a booster seat for children up to 80 or 100 pounds.

Base Booster

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 pounds before they can safely use this type of 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.


Children should be in a booster seat until 4’9”.
  • 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.


  • 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 air bag for young front-seat passengers. Click here for information on air bags.
  • 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.

Q & A

Are booster seats necessary for traveling short distances?

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.

Sometimes when I'm driving a lot of kids around (for example carpooling to a birthday party), I don't have enough boosters for everyone. It's not a problem since it only happens occasionally, right?

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.

I have a 4-year-old son who weighs 33 pounds. I recently switched him to a booster because he is now 4. He still fits into his forward-facing five-point harness car seat, but I switched him anyway. Is that OK?

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.

Is a child's weight the only determining factor for when a child doesn't need a booster anymore?

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.

How do I know which type of booster to buy?

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.

Are there boosters that I can use with just a lap belt?

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.

Can I put more than one child in a seatbelt?

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.

When can my child safely use a regular seat belt?

They 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. Seatbelts 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.

Can a child ride in the front seat?

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 air bag. 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 air bag 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.

May I install a car seat or booster seat on the side-facing or rear-facing vehicle seats in my vehicle?

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.

Why don’t school buses have seat belts?

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.

Are children younger than age 8 required to ride in a booster seat if they are transported in large passenger vans or small school buses?

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.

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