Why Use a Booster Seat Instead of an Adult Safety Belt?

In Illinois, by law children who have outgrown their child safety seat must be properly restrained in a booster seat until they are at least 8 years old.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends booster seat use until the adult belt fits properly – which could be as old as 12 years for some children. 


  • Safety belts are designed for small adults who are at least 80 pounds and 4 feet 9 inches tall. Until age eight, most children have not developed strong hipbones, and their legs and body are too short for the adult safety belt to fit correctly.

  • A belt that rides up on the tummy could cause serious internal injuries to vital organs. Many young children do not sit still or straight enough to keep lap belts low across their thighs or the strong hip bones.

  • Booster seats are comfortable for children because they allow their legs to bend normally and help them sit up straighter so the adult safety belt fits. Booster seats also allow kids to see out the window better.
Using A Belt-Positioning Booster Seat Correctly

  • Place the booster seat flat on the vehicle seat.

  • Sit the child on the booster seat, place the lap and shoulder belt over the child and buckle the safety belt.

  • Adjust the lap belt so it lies snugly across child’s upper thighs, not across the tummy. Adjust the shoulder belt and thread through shoulder belt positioned (if available) so that shoulder belt lays snuggly across the center of the child's shoulder. Check safety belt fit often.

  • Buckle the booster seat in even when the child is not in it. A loose booster seat can injure others in a crash.
Backless VS. Highback Booster Seats

Backless belt–positioning booster seats boost your child up so the vehicle safety belt fits better. This booster seat is used with the vehicle’s combination lap and shoulder safety belt, never with a lap-only safety belt. It should only be used in vehicles with head restraints that are tall enough to protect the child’s head and neck. The head restraint must be at least as tall as the top of the child’s ears. High back belt–positioning booster seats also boost your child up so the vehicle safety belt fits better. It provides head and neck support for your child if your vehicle seat back does not have a head restraint. It must be used with the vehicle’s combination lap and shoulder safety belt, never with a lap-only safety belt.


High back belt-positioning booster seats give children head protection if your vehicle does not have head restraints. If your vehicle has head restraints, a backless belt-positioning booster seat will work and make the safety belt fit properly. Make sure your vehicle's head restraints cover at least the top of your child's ears if you are using a backless belt-positioning booster seat.

If your child has outgrown his forward-facing child safety seat, a belt-positioning booster seat is the best choice for your growing child. A lap and shoulder safety belt must be used in the rear seat to properly restrain a child who has outgrown his forward-facing child safety seat.

If your child's ears are above the top of the vehicle seat, use a booster seat with a high back to improve neck protection.

A combination child safety seat/booster seat converts from a forward-facing toddler seat to a booster seat and comes equipped with a harness. This type can be used as a forward-facing toddler seat when your child is age 1 and at least 20 pounds to about age 4 and 40-65 pounds. When your child outgrows the toddler seat, remove the harness and use the seat as a booster seat with the vehicle’s combination lap and shoulder safety belt, never with a lap-only safety belt.

Safety Tips:

  • If the vehicle has only lap belts, it is safer for a child to use a lap only safety belt with no booster seat than to use a lap only safety belt with a booster seat.  Be sure to keep the lap only safety belt low and snug across the thighs. If the lap only safety belt rides up on the stomach, it could cause serious injuries in a crash.  Check with your vehicle manufacturer to have shoulder belts installed in your car.

  • Belt-positioning booster seats are the best solution for children who don't fit the adult safety belt regardless of your child's age.

  • REMEMBER:  Booster seats MUST be used in combination with lap and shoulder safety belts.  The back seat is the SAFEST place in the vehicle to install child safety seats.

  • The shoulder belt should never be placed behind a child’s back or under the arm.  If this is done, your child could be seriously injured or killed in a crash.

WARNING:  Devices advertised to improve belt fit for older children and adults are presently not covered by government safety standards.  These products are not recommended.  They may help with shoulder belt comfort, but may put too much slack in the shoulder belt or cause the lap belt to ride up onto the child’s tummy.