Some people remember long ago when kids just piled into the car and enjoyed the ride. Babies rode on mom’s lap in the front seat and a bonus was riding in the way back of the station wagon in the rear-facing seat. Fortunately, we have wised up to the dangers of unsecured children in the car. Of course everyone wears their seat belts, but what about those too young and/or little to fit? When does a child outgrow a car seat? How about transitioning to a booster seat?
According to BabyCenter (www.babycenter.com) and other experts, you should keep your child in a rear facing car seat as long as possible. Studies have shown the babies in rear-facing seats are less likely to be injured as those in front-facing seats. Many rear-facing car seats now accommodate kids who weigh 40, 45, or even 50 pounds, and are up to 49 inches tall.
So what about the transition from car seat to booster seat? Again according to BabyCenter, you can safely switch your child to a booster seat if (s)he’s at least 4 years old and weighs 40 pounds or more or has grown too tall for her car seat (when her shoulders are higher than the top set of harness-strap slots in the car seat’s back). Remember that car seats are the safest option, so keep using yours as long as it fits.
Just as with booster seats, the positioning of the seat/shoulder belt is critical. It should fit low on the torso, and never across the neck area. California law requires a supplemental restraint if the child is less than 8 years old or 57 inches tall. Check with your local police department or Automobile Club of America for more guidance.