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What age is it safe to not ride in a booster seat?

My daughter is 6 and feels she's too much of a big girl to ride in booster seat. When is it safe for her to not ride in a booster seat?

Danielle Knudson | Expert

Danielle Knudson

There is no magic age, height or weight determining whether your child will be safe without a booster. Because a booster corrects poor vehicle seat belt fit, a child should use a booster until the vehicle seat belt fits him properly. This can be anywhere from age 8 to age 13. 50% of all ten year olds still need to use boosters for proper seat belt fit.

Unless you can answer "yes" to all the questions below, your child STILL needs a booster in order for the seat belt to fit correctly--regardless of his height, his age, or his weight.

Also, please note that because boosters work in conjunction with the vehicle seat belt and vehicle seat cushion, an older child may need to use a booster in one vehicle but not in others. Make sure to perform the 5-Step Test the first time your older child rides in a new vehicle.

The 5-Step Test

Put your child in the car and have her sit like an adult, without a booster. Buckle the seat belt over her. Now answer these questions:

  • Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
  • Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
  • Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
  • Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
  • Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

If you can answer "yes" to every question, your child is okay to ride without a booster. If you answer "no" to any of these questions, your child still needs a booster in order to be safe.

About Our Community Expert

When Danielle Knudson works with families and child care providers on Child Passenger Safety (CPS), it is always in a judge-free zone. She is grateful to share her knowledge as a Child Passenger Safety Instructor with those that are inquiring. Danielle is the Safe Communities Director for National Safety Council, Nebraska. She is responsible for CPS, bicycle safety, distracted driving, the World Health Organization Safe Communities America designation, and more. She is a University Nebraska-Lincoln graduate in Family and Consumer Science Education.

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