8-12 Years | Booster & Seat Belt

When Should Children advance to A Seat Belt?

Always use your booster seat to the maximum height or weight the booster allows before moving your child to a seat belt.

Most older children taller than 4'9" can sit in a seat belt.

To determine whether your child is big enough to no longer use a booster, be sure you have him take "The Seat Belt Fit Test." If he doesn't pass all the steps, it's not a big deal. Just be sure he continues using a booster with the seat belt, and retest in a couple months.

The Seat Belt Fit Test
  • Have your child sit in a back seat with their bottom and back against the vehicle's seat back.
    Do the child's knees bend at the seat's edge? If yes, go on. If not, the child must stay in a booster seat.
  • Buckle the seat belt. Does the lap belt stay low on the hips? If yes, go on. If it rests on the soft part of the stomach, the child must stay in a booster seat.
  • Look at the shoulder belt. Does it lay on the collarbone and shoulder? If yes, go on. If it is on the face or neck, the child must remain in a booster seat. NEVER put the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the child's back. Do not allow children to play with the shoulder portion of a seat belt.
  • Can the child maintain the correct seating position with the shoulder belt on the shoulder and the lap belt low across the hips? If yes, the child has passed the Safety Belt Fit Test. If no, the child should return to a booster seat and retest in a month.


  • Children under 4'9", who use a seat belt only, are four times more likely to sustain serious injuries than a child using a booster seat.
  • Children under 13 years old should sit in the rear seat.
  • If your child is under 13 years and must sit in a front seat with a passenger-side air bag, properly restrain your child and move the vehicle seat back as far as possible.
Why children should be in a booster seat until 4’9”

Selecting the correct booster seat for your child

There are two basic 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


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 seat instructions.
  • All children under the age of 13 should be properly restrained in the back seat.
  • 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.

SECURING YOUR CHILD in a seat belt

  • Place the lap belt low over your child’s hips and upper thighs. If the seat belt rides up on the stomach, it could cause serious injuries in a crash.
  • The shoulder belt must come across the middle of the chest, and not across the neck or face.
  • The seat belt should never be worn behind the back or under the arm.
  • Most children, if they are 4’9” tall, fit in a lap/shoulder belt.


  • 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 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

When can my child safely use a regular seat belt?

They key to this question is the word “safely.” Utah’s law requires children to ride in appropriate child safety seats until they are eight years of age. Unfortunately, most children younger than age eight 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 up so the lap and shoulder belt fit safely over the strongest parts of their body. For more information on booster seats and seat belt use for children, visit

Can I put more than one child in a seat belt?

No. Every person in a vehicle should have his 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.

If my seat belt doesn't fit properly, can I put it under my arm or behind my back?

Seat belts function best when properly used, with the lap belt worn two to four inches below the waist, against the hips and upper thighs-never high over the ribs and stomach. The shoulder belt should never be worn under the arm or behind the back. It should be worn snugly across the chest with the belt lying against the collarbone. When driving, sit up straight at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel for added air bag protection in the event of a crash.

One faces a risk of serious injury or death by not using the seat belt properly - in this case, by not placing both components of the belt on the appropriate points of the body. The seat belt is designed to contact the strongest points of the body-the pelvis and the collarbone. When it is not worn properly, the user risks soft tissue damage to vital organs like the lungs, stomach, liver, and even spinal cord, all of which can be debilitating. Also, supplemental restraint systems such as air bags work best in conjunction with a properly used lap and shoulder belt.

If there is a problem with proper belt fit, one way to help the shoulder belt fit better is to move closer to where the belt buckles (i.e., on the driver's side, move toward the right). This lessens the angle at which the belt crosses the neck, and helps in many vehicles.

Can a child ride in the front seat?

Safety advocates recommend that children age 12 and younger 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, but the law does require that children younger than age eight ride in an appropriate car seat or booster seat that is used according to the owner’s manuals. In turn, 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 12 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.

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. Refer back to “The Seat Belt Fit Test.”

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.

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