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Planning on a holiday trip to show off your new bundle of joy to the family? Maybe you just going to pack the gang into the car and take a much-needed break while school is out. Whatever your reason for hitting the road, make sure your littlest ones are safe and secure in a car or booster seat. Because there can be tragic consequences in the smallest fender bender if the kids aren’t properly secured.
California law requires a supplemental restraint if the child is less than 8 years old or 57 inches tall. Beyond that, there are guidelines as to when a child needs to be in a car seat (rear- and front-facing) versus a booster seat. Obviously, you should follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for age, height and weight. According to CarSafety.org (www.carsafety.org), Children should be in an appropriate safety seat until the vehicle seatbelt fits them correctly, generally when they are about 8-12 years old and 4’9″. After that, they should be properly seated with a lap and shoulder belt. Children 12 and under should remain in the rear seat. All passengers should wear lap AND shoulder belts at all times.
How about making to switch from booster seat to shoulder/seat belt only? Children are not ready to be in a regular lap/shoulder seatbelt until: They are tall enough so that their legs bend at the knees at the edge of the seat; and they are mature enough to remain seated with their backs flat against the back of the seat and not slouch; and the lap belt sits high on the thighs or low on the hips (NOT on their stomach); and the shoulder belt crosses the shoulder and chest (NOT on their arms or neck!).
Check with your local police department or Automobile Club of America for more guidance.