Should Your Child Still Be In A Booster Seat?

As I was traveling down the road with my kids, I glanced up and there was a brand new billboard in our little city specifically promoting the use of booster seats. The message was clear: kids less than 4’9” tall need to be restrained in a booster seat.

I live in a state with pretty lax car seat laws. In fact we have NO booster seat laws at all. Children in my state can go from car seats to regular safety belts without penalty of law. And while I have always practiced safety above and beyond my state’s laws, seeing a billboard promoting booster seats for such “big” kids really threw me off guard!

The billboard is nationally sponsored by the government and refers to a website: where you will find a bit more information. A tool is provided for parents to input basic information about their children: height, weight and age. The tool then combines the information and spits out the appropriate recommendation/s for child safety.

I inputted my step-daughter’s information since she has been out of a booster seat for the last year due to exceeding the weight on our local store-bought seat, despite being only 8 and under the height guidelines these billboards suggest. Interestingly, the tool spit out two options. Because age met or exceeded the criteria they recommended that we chose either a booster seat exceeded OR a traditional safety belt.

Upon further investigation, it seems the mostly-unclear national recommendations are based not just on height but also on age. If the child meets either the age of 8 or the height of 4’9” they meet the criteria to move on to the regular safety belt. However if a child is over age 8 but still under 4’9” (as most children in this age group are) then apparently we have a choice however booster seats are still considered safer.

I have an 8 year old who is only 4’1” tall. He will be in a booster seat for a long time to come, regardless of the option to “graduate” that the government site offers. He is simply still too short for a safety belt to properly rest along his body. He doesn’t complain because it is all he knows. But if he did, I’d take a complaint over a serious internal injury or death any day.

While visiting the website I also learned that over 30 states have booster seat laws. Does yours? Are you properly restraining your child according to the law in your state? How does the law in your state match up to the national recommendations?