BELTS - Basics
When is a Child Ready for an Adult Safety
Safety belts are designed for adults – not small children. The
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride in
a belt positioning booster seat until the safety belt fits as it
would an adult – which could be as long as 12 years old for some
The lap portion of the safety belt must fit low and tight across
the upper thighs. The shoulder portion of the safety belt should
rest over the center of the shoulder and across the chest.
To be able
to fit in a safety belt, a child must pass this 5-step test:
- Be tall enough to sit without slouching,
- Keep his/her back against the vehicle seat back,
- Keep his/her knees completely bent over the edge of the seat
- Keep his/her feet flat on the floor, and
- Be able to stay comfortably seated this way
for the entire trip.
Lap-only safety belt
This type of safety belt has two anchor points and should fit over the lap
(thighs and hips). The sole function of the lap-only safety belt is to hold
the passenger in the vehicle. It is the least desirable type of safety belt
because it does not give any upper body protection
not be used unless absolutely necessary.
A lap-only safety belt does work well to
install some child safety seats. Contact your vehicle manufacturer to find
out if the lap-only safety belt can be retrofitted with a combination lap
and shoulder safety belt.
Combination lap and shoulder safety belt
This type of safety belt has three anchor points and should contact the body
over one shoulder and fit over the lap (thighs and hips). The shoulder part
of the safety belt gives protection to the upper body, keeping the head, neck
and spinal cord protected. This type of safety
belt is safer than a lap-only safety belt.
Never put the shoulder portion of the safety belt under the child's arm
or behind the child's back. This can cause severe internal injuries
in a crash. If the safety belt does not fit properly the child should
use a belt-positioning booster seat.
Always check safety belt fit on the child in every vehicle. A
belt-positioning booster seat may be needed in some vehicles and
not in others.
NOTE: ALWAYS read and follow the child
safety seat instructions and the vehicle owner's manual. Don't
rush your child into a safety belt too soon! Make sure the safety
belt fits properly before taking your child out of his booster
The Back Seat is
Best – up to age 13.
What About Aftermarket Belt-Positioning Products?
Devices advertised to improve safety belt fit for older children and adults are presently
not covered by government safety standards. These products are not recommended.
They may help to improve the comfort of the shoulder portion of
the safety belt but at the same time they may cause the lap portion of
the safety belt to be placed over the soft tissues of the body possibly
resulting in serious injury. Belt-positioning booster seats
are the best solution for children who are too small for the adult safety belt.