Here in Michigan, children are required to be in a child restraint until they turn 8 years old, unless they hit 4’9″ first. (Just for reference, that’s the height of the average 11-year-old boy.)
I took these pictures of Book Boy last week to illustrate why a child of 4 – or 7, in this case – should not be riding in just an adult seat belt, law or no law. These were all taken in a Honda Odyssey, a very common “family” vehicle.
First, here he is in just the seat belt. Notice how it crosses his neck and the soft part of the abdomen? This leaves him extremely vulnerable to neck injuries and internal organ injuries in the event of a crash. The shoulder belt is on the lowest setting here, even though it looks very high. It’s hard to believe that he could have been sitting this way legally for the past THREE years, since the new booster law went into effect in July. (Can’t imagine how he would have fit at 4.)
This backless booster raises him up just enough to achieve a proper fit with the seat belt. Notice that the shoulder belt now rests across his shoulder and the lap belt rests on his hips rather than his abdomen.
This high-back booster adds great side-impact protection, not to mention a comfy place to rest his head when he’s tired or sleepy.
And finally, his all-time favorite seat. A five-point harness to keep him positioned properly and help spread out crash forces, side-impact protection, and that place to rest his head. (FYI, this is a Graco Nautilus, and at 7 years old, Book Boy still has a couple of inches of torso room to go in this seat. It also happens to fit Little Sister well, too!)
Check out my Celebrity Baby Blog article on booster seats and seat belts.
*Or other appropriate child restraint such as a harnessed seat (see last pic), vest, etc.