Five Step Seatbelt Test

Graco Nautilus 3 in 1 three in one booster seat for kids installed in middle row of Mazda5 minivan

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Keep Your Kids Safe in Cars

Graco Nautilus 3 in 1 three in one booster seat for kids installed in middle row of Mazda5 minivan
  • What: Five Step Seatbelt Test
  • When: Your child outgrows their booster
  • Why: Keep your child safe
  • Where: Any vehicle your child rides in

Two of my three kids just outgrew their various car and booster seats, so I’ve been reviewing the standards for when they can ride without any additional safety seats needed.

The Car Seat Lady's visual guide to the five step seat belt test for kids to ride without a booster in vehicles
A visual guide to the Five Step Seatbelt Test from The Car Seat Lady, my expert of choice on all things car seat related.

We’ve also traveled recently, which means my kids rode in a variety of different vehicles in other places. The regulations vary from state to state, and can get confusing quickly. For instance, restrictions commonly focus on height and weight rather than age. But what if your child meets the height requirement but not the weight requirement or vice versa? Then what do you do?

If you want to know if your child can safely travel with just the seatbelt as a restraint, see if they can pass the five step test. The five questions you need to ask: Does their bottom go all the way to the back of the seat? Do their knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat with their feet resting flat on the floor? Does the lap portion of the seatbelt go across low on the hips rather than the thighs or stomach? Does the shoulder belt go across the collarbone in between the neck and shoulder rather than on either? And finally, can your child remain sitting properly in this position without slouching or moving around for the duration of a car ride?

If you can answer yes to all those questions, your child may be ready to ride without any al car or booster seat. If you answered no to any one of the questions, though, they need to wait. Since different vehicles have different seat heights, depths, and headrests, it can be difficult to know without putting your kid in the specific model to check (say, if you’re renting a car), and more importantly, their readiness can vary from vehicle to vehicle. It never hurts to check. And when in doubt, wait to move them into using a seat belt without any child safety restraint. If you’d like more information, visit the experts at Car Seats for the Littles.

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