n Aug. 2, Arizona’s new booster seat provision was enacted, requiring children younger than 8 years old or less than 4 feet, 9 inches tall to sit in a proper child safety seat, such as a booster seat, when riding in a vehicle.
1. Why the new law?
The booster seat provision revised the existing child passenger safety law that allowed children to transition from a safety seat to an adult seat belt at the age of 5. However, because seat belts alone aren’t enough to protect children this small, parents were unknowingly jeopardizing the safety of their children by following this guideline.
The new booster seat provision closes this loophole, protecting children until they are large enough for the safety belt to properly protect them in the event of a crash.
2. What if my child is already 4 feet, 9 inches? Does he still need to ride in a booster?
In order for a child to graduate to an adult safety belt, they have to meet either the age or height requirement.
This means that once a child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller, they are no longer required to ride in a booster seat, regardless of age.
And, if your child meets the age, but not the height requirement (i.e. an 8 year old who is less than 4 feet, 9 inches tall) they would not be required by law to ride in a booster seat. However, until a child is at least 4 feet 9 inches, AAA recommends they ride in a booster for their safety.
3. Does a child’s weight have any bearing on the law?
While some states include weight as part of this provision, Arizona’s law is based on height, as this is a better indicator for when a safety belt will properly fit a child. Weight varies among child passengers, but the height at which a safety belt properly restrains and protects a child does not.
4. My 6 year old hasn’t had to ride in a safety seat in more than a year. Am I supposed to place her in a booster seat?
For her safety and to adhere to the law, she needs to be placed in a booster seat so long as she falls under the age or height requirements. For children who are new to boosters, or are having to readjust to riding in a safety seat, AAA recommends explaining what a booster seat is and how it works to keep them safe. Many children like riding in a booster seat, as it enables them to see out the car window.
5. My vehicle has a built-in booster seat. Does that meet the new requirement?
Integrated car seats meet the new provision so long as they fit the child properly. Seats vary from vehicle to vehicle, so be sure to check your owner’s manual for specifications.
6. How do I know I am using my car seat or booster seat correctly?
Unlike other car seats, boosters do not require installation. To ensure you are using any child passenger safety seat correctly, consult a certified child passenger safety technician to conduct a car seat check.
For more on Arizona’s booster seat law, or more information on child passenger safety, visit az.aaa.com/news/traffic-safety/childsafety.
• Linda Gorman is the communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650-2716 or firstname.lastname@example.org.