Booster Seat Recommendations - Safe Ride 4 Kids

Booster Seat Recommendations

booster seat recommendations

and other updated crash stats…

Recently the National Highway Traffic Safe Administration (NHTSA) released updated data on usage and booster seat recommendations based on their 2015 National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats (NSUBS).

The primary purpose of the biannual survey is to estimate booster seat use among 4- to 7-year-old children. The survey also provides estimates on restraint use for all children under 13 and the extent children are “prematurely graduated” to restraint types that are inappropriate for them based on age, height and weight.

“When children are not buckled up or are riding in a seat that isn’t used correctly, their safety is in jeopardy,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “You can act by making sure your kids are buckled up and in the right car seats for their age and size.”

make every arrival a safe arrival™The NSUBS found:

  • Booster seat use among 4- to 7-year-old children was decreased slightly to 44.5% in 2015.
    • 17.9% were properly restrained in child car seats; the percentage of children 4 to 7 restrained in forward-facing car seat decreased slightly from 20.3% in 2013.
  • An appropriate child restraint for 4- to 7-year-old children is either a forward-facing car seat or a belt positioning device like a booster seat. However, the NSUBS found that 37.4% of children 4 to 7 years old in the United States were not being properly restrained
    • 25.8% were restrained by seat belts
    • 11.6% were unrestrained
  • Restraint use among 8- to 12-years-old girls decreased significantly to 82.6% in 2015 from 90.5% in 2013.
  • Restraint use among children 8 to 12 years old whose height is between 37 to 53 inches decreased significantly to 83.4% in 2015 from 90.0% in 2013.
  • Premature graduation to restraint types that are not appropriate for children’s age, height, and weight rose for children 1 to 3 years old as about 13.6% were prematurely graduated to booster seats; a significant increase from 9.3% in 2013.

What are NHTSA’s booster seat recommendations?

The most important of the booster seat recommendations is to use one. Even big kids need to be safe in cars!

NHTSA recommends children 4 to 7 to remain in a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness until the child reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the seat. At which time, the child can move into a belt positioning booster. (There are other belt positioning devices like the Ride Safer travel vest. However the RideSafer is certified and can be used for smaller children in lieu of a forward-facing car seat as well, especially helpful as a secondary seat for travel or carpools.)

Download our report: Common Car Seat Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Remember, in Sweden children remain rear facing until 4 years of age at which time they are turned forward facing in a booster seat. Sweden’s injury and death rate is significantly lower.

Once a child is in a belt-positioning booster seat (or other such device), the child should use that device until the child can pass the 5-step seat belt fit test. This usually doesn’t happen until a child is 4’9″ in height, which is typically when a child is somewhere between the ages of 8 and 12.

One of the common times booster seat recommendations are neglected is when parents are carpooling or bringing friends along to day activities.

Why follow this recommendation?

However, the 2015 NSUBS found that 15.6% of children 8 to 12 years old were unrestrained. Unfortunately, this is an increase from the 10.6% who were unrestrained in 2013.

Booster seats reportedly reduce the risk for serious injury by 45% for children aged 4 to 8 years old compared to using just the seat belt.

Booster seats range in price from $20 to $250. They come in backless or highback styles. We don’t recommend one over the other. Backless boosters generally provide better lap belt fit while highbacks generally do a better job of positioning shoulder belts. The booster seat alternative, RideSafer, costs $145-159. It provides both a good lap belt fit and shoulder belt positioning by bringing the seat belt down to fit the child.

Read the full NSUBS.

Other Crash Statistics for 2015

  • The nation lost 35,092 people in crashes on U.S. roadways during 2015, an increase from 32,744 in 2014. The 7.2 percent increase is the largest percentage increase in nearly 50 years. The largest percentage increase previously was an 8.1 percent increase from 1965 to 1966.
  • In 2015, the use of
    • seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 13,941 lives of occupants 5 and older,
      • if all unrestrained passengers used a seat belt an additional 2,804 lives could have been saved
    • frontal air bags saved an estimated 2,573 lives of occupants 13 and older
    • child restraints saved an estimated 266 child occupants 4 and younger
    • and motorcycle helmets saved 1,772 lives
      • if all motorcyclists used a helmet an additional 740 lives could have been saved.

Read the report for more information and booster seat recommendations.

We want to know, is your 8 to 12 year old still in a booster seat? Or will your child? Share your comments below.

By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004

Copyright 2016 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.

© Eli Meir Kaplan for Home Front Communications National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
21 Comments
  • Shea Anderson
    Posted at 16:19h, 29 January Reply

    My 9, 6 and 3 year olds all still use britax 5 point harness seats with latch. My little guy was rear facing till 3. I love them too much to risk it over something so simple as a car seat. :)

    • Melisa D.
      Posted at 21:38h, 03 March Reply

      My son is 8 years old, 64 pounds, and 51 inches tall. He is still in a 5 point harness. The Graco Nautilus Elite 80 allows children to be secure in a 5 point harness up to 80 pounds. All of his friends seem to be in a booster seat with seatbelt or seatbelt only. We prefer our son be as safe as possible!

    • Mary Guggie
      Posted at 22:38h, 27 November Reply

      FYI to all readers and the author: most Latch systems have a max weight limit of 65lbs. That includes the kid plus car seat. In short, you’re not using your car seat properly if you have a kid in a five point harness that weighs more than 40 lbs. Look it up yourselves.

      • Amie
        Posted at 15:20h, 05 December Reply

        True the Lower Anchors part of LATCH typically has a weight limit that includes the combined weight of the car seat and the child. So if your seat weighs — as many do — 25 pounds, the weight limit for the child (while using LATCH) is 40 pounds. When the child reaches 40 pounds, you can continue using the car seat but will need to install it in the vehicle using the seat belt. Read the blog linked to above for more details.

  • Sandra Rosen
    Posted at 23:28h, 11 March Reply

    I have 3 years old niece and I want to save her when we will travel in a car that’s why I was thinking of booster seats with a seatbelt. Can I use them? Thanks for your article.

    • Amie
      Posted at 09:53h, 12 March Reply

      Hi Sandra, Most booster seats are not rated for 3 year olds any more. They typically are rated for 4 years old and 40 pounds. The RideSafer vest is rated for children 3 years old and 30 pounds. We do recommend if you are using it for a child that small that you also use a tether strap to help keep the child in proper seating position.

  • Jennifer Finerty
    Posted at 12:24h, 28 May Reply

    Yes! My soon to be 9-year-old will continue to use a booster seat, but it got so much harder this year as practically everyone seems to believe that once a child is 8, they no longer need a booster seat. Supposedly due to some PA state rules. I try explaining to them that the child has to be tall enough for the seat belt to work properly, but it is surprising how the parents just don’t care to hear it. So far no kids have made fun of her for it the way the parents have mocked me for it, but I’m sure it’s not far off!

    • Amie
      Posted at 12:41h, 28 May Reply

      Good on you Mom! If your child understands that it’s better to be safe than sorry, she hopefully won’t listen any criticism from her friends. She could just respond, “My mom loves me and wants me to be as safe as possible and I do too.”

      As we say on our state car seat laws page: “Best practice recommendations and the law don’t always correlate when it comes to car seat laws. Most parents and caregivers assume the law is the safest and what is recommended by safety experts. However, this is not always the case. States’ restraint laws are the result of compromises between the “best practice” recommendations of safety experts and provisions the legislators feel are practical, enforceable, and will be tolerated by the general public and their own constituents. Occupant restraint laws should be considered to be minimum standards.”

      And if other parents want to know why it’s such a big deal share with them this link with information about seat belt syndrome.

  • Thang Dieu
    Posted at 15:28h, 04 June Reply

    Hi, should I use car seat or booster seat for 5 years and half to usa

    • Amie
      Posted at 19:56h, 04 June Reply

      What would you normally use at home? Legally a 5 year old would be OK in a booster seat. But without knowing size or behavior, we can’t make a specific recommendation for your child. A RideSafer would offer protection in between a 5-point harness and a traditional booster seat. It offers 4 points of contact, energy absorbing padding where the seat belt touches the body and the shoulder belt tracks with the child as the child moves. Plus it’s lightweight and portable.

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 12:31h, 30 June Reply

    I currently have 2 daughters 11 and 7. Both of them are in seats when we travel. My 7 year old is forward facing in a harness and probably will still be for another year or so. I had an interesting situation with my 11 year old. She is currently about 75 pounds and 53 inches and rode in a booster seat up to 2 months ago. My 7 year old was outgrowing the harness on her current seat. So, I decided to buy a britax 90 pound seat for her. I had it set up in the living room floor to let her try it out. Our phone rang and I went and answered it.

    When I came back 15 minutes later I had a good laugh when I saw my 11 year old trying to fit into the britax seat with the harness installed. I went ahead and put the harness on the highest setting and it actually fit her to my surprise. We both had a good laugh about it. However, when I came out to take them to school the next day, my 11 year old was sitting in the Britax seat with the harness done up. Apparently my girls got confused and thought it was acutally for the older one. So, I went ahead and put my 7 year olds older seat back in the car and ordered a second Britax 90. So, both of my girls are back in harness seats now. I’ll probably be dropping my eldest off at her prom in a booster at this point. (Just kidding)

  • Melissa Johnson
    Posted at 02:46h, 15 August Reply

    My 10 yo 5th grader still rides in a Britax Blvd 5 pnt harness because she says it just feels safer to her. She is a tiny girl, 66lbs and 51.5″tall. We will be converting it into a hijack booster any day.

  • JR
    Posted at 05:18h, 24 September Reply

    My 3 year old daughter has discovered that she can unbuckle her harness in her Nautilus car seat. We’ve been working with her, trying to break this habit, for awhile. My question is, would it be safe to use the regular seat belt with her seat, so that she cannot unbuckle herself no matter what? She is 38lbs and fairly tall for her age.

    • Amie
      Posted at 12:07h, 25 September Reply

      Do you mean (a) in addition to the car seat harness or (b) removing the harness and using the Nautilus as a booster with the seat belt? (a) You would have to read the car seat manual to be sure but it’s most likely not allowed. (b) Again read the car seat manual to be sure but the lower weight limit for the booster is likely 40 pounds. Also she would still be able to unbuckle the seat belt. You may want to look into something like a RideSafer vest and Buckle Boss Buckle Guard combo to keep her from unbuckling.

      • Danielle
        Posted at 17:22h, 24 December Reply

        My son will be 4 tomorrow. We are looking at boosters that are safest and cheaper end option. I drive a vw Tiguan and hubby drives a Honda civic

      • Sola Drumm
        Posted at 21:31h, 23 July Reply

        I have my 9- and 7- year-olds are still in 5 point harnesses. We occasionally do boosters, if transporting other kids. My 9-year-old is 54 inches and 65 lbs. He has reached the height limit for his seat. Is it still safe? Is there another that won’t break the bank? He is SO wiggly.

        • Amie
          Posted at 13:43h, 25 July Reply

          Hi Sola, I’m not sure what your “break the bank” point is. There are some Britax seats that have a forward-facing harness height max of 58″ tall like the Frontier Clicktight or Pioneer. A RideSafer travel vest with tether could also help keep him properly restrained.

  • Krista
    Posted at 18:08h, 20 February Reply

    My daughter tuned 3 in november she is 59lb and 4ft 1in she is very tall for her age as the doctors also say she is not over weight for her age cause of her height she wears a 7 in clothes. The harness is uncomfortable on her and she doesn’t like it anymore cause it’s tight on her shoulders we use a diano carseat five point harness what is your recommendation on a seat for her ms AMIE

    • Amie
      Posted at 14:26h, 21 February Reply

      Hi Krista, Without more specifics ie. which Diono seat, what specifications does the seat mention, what level are the harness straps at, etc. I do not feel I can answer that question properly. I would suggest you take your daughter and the seat to a local CPS technician so the technician can see your daughter in the seat and better determine what the next step is.

  • Tiffany Mize
    Posted at 12:27h, 23 February Reply

    My twin 11 year olds are in boosters, as is their 9 year old sister. One twin could come out, based in height, but my car has no headrest and the booster helps keep his neck supported and safe in case of an accident. So, until they reach height, and weight or their 18 (haha) they will be in boosters.

  • Jany Alvarez-Garcia
    Posted at 16:55h, 20 March Reply

    My husband and I purchased a Britax Highpoint and Britax Skyline booster seats. Our daughter will be 4 next month, weighs 45 pounds and is 43 inches tall. We have been using a Britax Marathon car seat, and she tells me that is uncomfortable. I’m still very nervous about transitioning to the Britax Highpoint and Britax Skyline. My 4 year old is very mature and is good at following directions. So I’m more nervous about the safety aspect rather than her maturity. Thank you for the advice!

Post A Comment

Stay Updated!

Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

news, updates, promotions

Thank you and welcome!
You have been subscribed.

us map car seat law updates

Subscribe for Updates

Get news and updates including updates on changes in state car seat laws by subscribing to our monthly newsletter.

Thank you for Subscribing! We'll see you at our next newsletter! 

4+ Stages of car seats

Get a basic understanding of the 4(+) Stages of Child Restraints your child will go through over the years with this cheat sheet.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

10 mistakes report

Do you know for sure if your kids are riding in the car safe?

After all 3 out of 4 of all car seats are being used incorrectly and 93% of newborns are in their car seats with critical errors. Learn how to fix the most common car seat mistakes with this report.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

make every arrival a safe arrival

Enter your name and email then click the button below to pledge and receive our news, tips and updates.

Thank you for Subscribing! We'll see you at our next newsletter! 

safer driving during pregnancy

Find out everything you need to know about the risks involved with driving during pregnancy and how to keep you and your baby as safe as possible in the car.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Get car seat and child safety updates, tips and reminders with our monthly newsletter. You'll also get new product and promotion announcements first.

Thank you for Subscribing! We'll see you at our next newsletter!