Keeping children safe in crashes:
What if my vehicle doesn't have shoulder belts?
Belt-positioning booster seats are designed to be used in rear seats with vehicles' lap/shoulder belts. Most booster seat instruction manuals say you should not use the booster with a lap belt only. This is because lap belts alone still allow your child's upper body to move, so they do not protect the head and chest as well as the combination of lap/shoulder belts. Always put your child in the rear seat with lap/shoulder belts if available. However, if your only choice is to use a lap belt alone, you still should put your child in a booster seat unless the lap belt fits well by itself.
If you must frequently transport a booster-age child in a seat that has only a lap belt, consider these options to improve your child's protection:
1. Forward-facing child restraints with higher weight limits: These are designed to restrain booster-age children weighing up to 80 pounds. Some of these seats can be secured to a vehicle using a lap belt only. Others require a top tether in addition to the lap belt. It is always a good idea to use a top tether if your vehicle is equipped with top tether anchors, even if your seat does not require one.
2. Safety vest: A number of these meet all federal regulations for securing children up to adult weight.
When installing a forward-facing child restraint or safety vest, a top tether may be necessary. Check your vehicle owner's manual to determine which seats are equipped with top tether anchors, and attach the tether only at these positions. If your vehicle is not equipped with a top tether anchor point in any rear-seat position, you may be able to have your car retrofitted with the appropriate hardware. Consult your vehicle manufacturer for more information.
3. Retrofit vehicle for lap/shoulder belts: It may be possible to equip older model vehicles with lap/shoulder belts. Contact your manufacturer to see if your vehicle can be retrofitted.
If you are in the market for a used vehicle, be sure to inspect all seating positions to determine the type of belts. As early as the 1990 model year, automakers began to equip rear outboard seating positions with lap/shoulder belts, and all passenger vehicles were equipped with lap/shoulder belts in these seats by the 1992 model year. Such belts are required in the center rear position of all 2008 and later model vehicles. However, many automakers voluntarily equipped earlier models with lap/shoulder belts in center rear seats.
Select seats and vests available for use by higher weight children (links open a new browser window):
Back to Keeping children safe in crashes