Take the 5 Step Seat Belt Test - Safe Ride 4 Kids

Take the 5 Step Seat Belt Test

5 step seat belt testIs your child riding in the car safe?

Having been a Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician for many years now I can understand my husband’s desire to follow people home to educate them about properly restraining their children in the vehicle. (He says he’s only done it while in his firefighter uniform. And as far as I know he’s only done it once. And I know he had the best of intentions; he wants every child to be safe in the car.)

As I drive around town the number of kids I see improperly restrained, unrestrained or sitting in the front seat appalls me.

Just the other day we saw a infant riding in the car in the arms of someone sitting in the front seat of a vehicle driving behind us. I know parents ultimately want to keep their children safe. So I wonder, do these parents just not know? Do they remember to their childhood thinking, “well, we all made it out alive without car seats at all”? Can some of them not afford a car seat and don’t know where to find an organization that offers them for free?

Before moving your child to a vehicle seat belt try the 5 step seat belt test

The statistics say the booster age range child is the most likely to not use a proper child restraint. I’ve heard a lot of excuses for this. The one I’ve heard the most is, “my child is older and thinks a booster seat is for babies.”

4 + stages of car seatsI deplore you parents to keep your babies safe while riding in the car no matter what age they are. So before a child should be sitting in a car seat, he or she needs to meet the following five criteria called the 5 Step Seat Belt Test:

  1. Shoulder belt crosses between the neck and shoulder.
  2. Lower back is against the vehicle seat
  3. Lap belt is on the thighs.
  4. The knees bend at the end of the seat.
  5. The child can ride like this for the entire ride.

Sometimes children will meet these criteria in some cars but not in others because different seat belts in different cars fit differently.

The general rule of thumb is the child needs to be at least 4 foot 9 inches tall to fit properly.

Different states may also have an age requirement. Sometimes the state car seat law will say age “and” height meaning they have to be both that age and height. And sometimes the law will say age “or” height meaning the child has to be one or the other but not necessarily both to be legally allowed to be out of a child passenger safety seat.

Please remember also it is best practice for children to be seated in the back seat until they are 13-years-old.

We want to know, did you know the 5-step test prior to reading this post? Share your comments below.

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

Copyright 2014 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.

This post was originally published May 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.  

  • Sabrina
    Posted at 08:54h, 05 January Reply

    No, I did not know the 5 step test prior to reading this. My daughter is only 10, but she’s about 4’8″ tall and weighs about 115lbs. I don’t have to worry abut her asking to sit in the front seat yet because her older brother sits there, but he’ll be getting his driver’s license this year and I know she’s going to be asking. I think that it’s best to have this test than to give a standard answer as in age of child. Children grow at different rates so I think it’s best to go by this test or by the child’s weight and height. Although if we went by weight and height my own mother probably wouldn’t pass the test.LOL

    • Amie
      Posted at 11:09h, 05 January Reply

      LOL! Many adults say that when we post about how tall a child normally is before they properly fit into a seat belt. Age does become a factor in sitting up front (and for short adults) as the increased bone development means the iliac crests in the hip bones are formed and will hold the seat belt as required. See “When can children sit in the front seat?” (This is disappointing for our nearly 12 year old who 5-stepped a couple years ago as he still needs to wait another year to sit in the front seat.)

  • Val
    Posted at 20:35h, 23 September Reply

    Thanks for sharing and the additional comments about bone development. I did not know that. My 10, almost 11 year old is almost as tall as me at 5ft and often sits in the front because his two young brothers are in the back in car seats. Makes me think I need a bigger car so he can sit in the back.

  • Anthony
    Posted at 01:09h, 30 June Reply

    my daughter does not pass the 5 step test should we get her a car seat. She is short for a 13 year old 4 10 and 85 pounds? If so which one do you recommend? ( price do not matter )

    • Amie
      Posted at 15:27h, 30 June Reply

      A smaller booster seat like the Graco RightGuide would probably give her the bit of boost she needs until she can pass the 5-step test.

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