Almost 26 percent of 4- to
7-year-old kids are tran-
sitioned out of their boosters
prematurely, according to
NHTSA’s 2015 National Survey
of the Use of Booster Seats
report. To see whether your
child is ready, use this checklist
with her sitting without a
booster. If the answer is “yes”
to each point, then it’s safe to
move from booster to belts.
(^) Her back is against the
vehicle seat. This seating
posture limits the slack in the
seat belt, reducing how long
before your child experiences
the benefit of the belt.
Her knees bend comfortably
at the seat’s edge. If kids
slouch to let their knees bend
comfortably, it increases their
risk of injury because the seat
belt rides up off of their hips
and onto the soft portion of
(^) The belt is centered
between neck and shoulder.
If the belt is too high, it
can injure the neck and throat
and tempt kids to put the
shoulder belt behind their back.
A belt that’s off the shoulder
can slip off during a crash,
reducing its protection.
The lap belt is low across
the top of the thighs. If the lap
portion of the belt is across
the soft tissue of the abdomen,
it can damage internal organs
during a crash. It should lie
along the upper thighs across
the sturdier hip bones.
(^) She stays comfortably seated
for the whole trip. Kids who are
uncomfortable often sit in out-
forward, lying to the side, belt
behind their back or under
an arm—where the belt can’t
provide optimal protection.
child seats and boosters that
are installed incorrectly.
SOURCE: National Highway Traffic Safety
THE VITAL STATISTIC
CHILDREN GROW UP FAST.That means
they need the right car seat as they
move through each milestone.
While it might be tempting to move
your child to the next seat or stage,
don’t be in a rush, or you’ll risk losing
out on the safety benefits of the seat
that’s best for them.
A Seat for Every Size
For that first ride home from the hospi-
tal, most children will be in an infant
seat. These rear-facing-only seats pro-
vide the best fit for newborns and have
weight ranges from 4 to 40 pounds.
They feature a convenient removable
carrier that connects to a base that
stays installed in the car.
Many infant or rear-facing-only
child seats have weight limits of up to
35 pounds or more, but a child is
more likely to grow too tall for the seat
before reaching those weight limits.
A convertible seat is the next step
and will likely be the one a child
spends the most time in. These seats
can be installed in both rear- and
Both CR and the American Academy
of Pediatrics recommend that kids
ride facing the rear until they reach the
height or weight limit of a rear-facing
seat. CR says that should be at least
until age 2.
Once a child outgrows the height or
weight limits of a rear-facing convert-
ible, they will move to a forward-facing
orientation while still using the inter-
nal harness. A booster, toddler-booster,
or harness-to-booster may be another
option for a forward-facing child.
The change from a forward-facing
seat with a built-in harness to a booster
that works with the car’s own seat belts
usually happens when a child is between
the ages of 4 and 6.
Kids should stay in a booster until they
can fit a vehicle’s seat belts correctly,
which typically happens when they’re
at least 57 inches tall and often around
11 years old. Some states require kids as
heavy as 80 pounds to ride in a booster
if they are under 8 years old.
All-in-one seats may seem to provide
a good value by taking a child from birth
to booster age. However, our tests have
found that by trying to do too much, most
of these seats don’t do any single task
well. They lack the convenience of a
detachable carrier and may not fit smaller
babies (or smaller vehicles) well. But
they could still be a good backup for a care-
giver who transports a child less often.
CR.ORG/CARS NEW CARS 11
Child Car Seats
We’ve tested more than 100 to find the best ones
for your child at every stage.