My oldest son is almost 8, and up until a couple of weeks ago, has ridden in a 5-point harnessed safety seat his entire life. He started using a booster in his grandma’s car a few months ago, but it wasn’t until our 2-year-old needed a bigger seat that the car-seat-shuffle required us to move G out of the harness and into a high-back booster. At his age, I’m pretty comfortable with this, and I like that his booster has deep side-wings for added upper-body support and side-impact protection. The trickiest transition, though, is the one yet to come – when is he ready for an adult belt, only?
The answer to that lies in 5 Steps (aka, The 5-Step Test), a simple, easy to learn test to evaluate a child’s fit in every vehicle they ride in. It’s necessary to evaluate each time in each vehicle because, as counter to modern myths and state safety laws as it may be, age and weight have nothing to do with appropriate fit in an adult belt. The 5 Step Test takes into account the size of the child, vehicle dimensions, and belt geometry, all of which are essential to make a good fit.
So, as I re-learn these 5-Steps and teach them to my son, I’d like to also share them with you. I found an excellent blog post with not only the 5-Step Test but also pictures of several children in both belts and boosters. The pictures are a great aid to help you evaluate fit, and demonstrate the difference between belt-only fit and fit with a booster seat.
Remember, motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of children in the United States. Keeping children well-protected is the single biggest factor we can control in minimizing harm and saving lives. For more statistics, see the CDC’s Fact Sheet on Child Passenger Safety.