Harness to Seatbelt? Laws and Restrictions for Carseat/booster

Updated on August 03, 2009
S.M. asks from San Jose, CA
15 answers

My son is 4 years and 5 months and is coming close to 40 pounds. We have the Recaro Young Sport and this seat can be converted to a booster up to 80 pounds. My question is whether or not their is a weight, age, height limitation to the use of the 5 point harness. I heard that it's best to keep your child in the 5 point harness for as long as possible. When he's 40 pounds and 4, is it mandatory to use the seatbelt instead of the harness? I've searched online and I can't find a solid answer. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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answers from San Francisco on

We have the Ricaro sport. The manual says you can use the harness to 40 lbs. We ended up buying the Graco Nautulus(sp?) whose harness is good until 65 or 80 lbs (I don't remember).

It's not mandatory to switch to a booster.

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answers from San Francisco on

4 years and 40 lbs. is generally considered by Child-passenger safety techs to be the *minimum* for moving to a booster - at this age, many children are still a bit too squirrelly to sit properly in a booster all the time (i.e. no wiggling around and moving the shoulder belt behind them, etc.).

For your child's particular seat, you would need to convert it to booster mode if he has reached the height or weight limits of the seat (in this case, 40 lbs. or shoulders above the top harness slots). But if your child still fits the harness by height and weight, there's no law against using the seat with the harness - many parents keep their kids in 5 -pt. harnesses to age 6 and beyond - see http://www.kyledavidmiller.org/pages/4211/Car_Seat_Safety... for reasons and http://www.cpsafety.com/articles/FFalbum.aspx for pictures.

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answers from Sacramento on

I am keeping my 5 year old son in a 5 pt harness for as long as possible. There is a problem though. After 65 lbs, the carseat manufacturer(Britax) says that the carseat has to be tethered to the vehicle because it would be too heavy in a crash; HOWEVER, the car manufacturer(Mercedes) says to stop the use of tethers after the child is 40-45lbs!!!! So you have to decide to either trust that carseat company or the car company~ It's a scary decision.
Good Luck
If anyone has anymore input on this, I would love to hear it!



answers from Sacramento on

It is not mandatory to switch from a 5 point harness to the seat belt. The longer a child is in a 5 point harness, the better. The important thing to keep in mind when switching seats is the height. Is the 5 opint harness level or higher than your son's shoulders? I've recently bought a booster for my 5 year old daughter for my husband's car. She is currently using the Britax Marathon in my car and will be able to use it for a few more months. My daughter is 43 inches tall and 41 lbs. (She lost a few lbs with the flu, but she is still safe).



answers from Sacramento on

S., Assuming you live in CA, the driver handbook for CA driving laws regarding car seats and weight/height requirements states the following:

Child Passenger Restraints: Requirements
27360. (a) A parent or legal guardian, when present in a motor vehicle, as defined in Section 27315, may not permit his or her child or ward to be transported upon a highway in the motor vehicle without properly securing the child or ward in a rear seat in a child passenger restraint system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards, unless the child or ward is one of the following:

(1) Six years of age or older.

(2) Sixty pounds or more.

(b) (1) A driver may not transport on a highway a child in a motor vehicle, as defined in Section 27315, without properly securing the child in a rear seat in a child passenger restraint system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards, unless the child is one of the following:

(A) Six years of age or older.

(B) Sixty pounds or more.

(2) This subdivision does not apply to a driver if the parent or legal guardian of the child is also present in the vehicle and is not the driver.

(c) (1) For purposes of subdivisions (a) and (b), and except as provided in paragraph (2), a child or ward under the age of six years who weighs less than 60 pounds may ride in the front seat of a motor vehicle, if properly secured in a child passenger restraint system that meets applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards, under any of the following circumstances:

(A) There is no rear seat.

(B) The rear seats are side-facing jump seats.

(C) The rear seats are rear-facing seats.

(D) The child passenger restraint system cannot be installed properly in the rear seat.

(E) All rear seats are already occupied by children under the age of 12 years.

(F) Medical reasons necessitate that the child or ward not ride in the rear seat. The court may require satisfactory proof of the child's medical condition.

(2) A child or ward may not ride in the front seat of a motor vehicle with an active passenger airbag if the child or ward is one of the following:

(A) Under one year of age.

(B) Less than 20 pounds.

(C) Riding in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system.

If you want to look at the website yourself, go to www.dmv.ca.gov and then in the search area type car seat requirements. Hope all of this helps.



answers from Chico on

I asked the CHP when I went for an installation check and they said it is safer to keep them in the harness as long as they fit in it. (Not the answer I was looking for either.) I think it is 40 lbs minimum for booster use in California (though some boosters say 30 lbs on them). CHeck your carseat manual to see how long the harness will fit: it's different for each one.



answers from Sacramento on

I have a Graco carseat, I forget the make, but the harness is able to go up to 65lbs. And after the harness I will be able to use the seatbelt with the whole carseat and it can also turn into a booster when it is time. My daughter is 4 1/2 right now and about 43lbs and about 47 inches tall. I will keep her in the harness for as long as I can and she doesn't seem to mind. We were in an accident about 9 months ago and I know one of the main reasons why she didn't get hurt, other then bursed from the harness, was because she was in a harness and not a seatbealt. It kept her safe. So when I had to get a new carseat for her I made sure to get one that she could still use the harness for at least other year or more. That's is what I'm going to do and works best for us.



answers from Stockton on

Contact your local California Highway Patrol office and they can advise you. Our local office has an assigned officer just for car seats.



answers from Sacramento on

I just switched my 5 1/2 year old twins carseats into boosters...they had been in the 5 point harness until then. I could of switched them a year ago, but saw no point. I finally switched them because the 5 point harness was getting too tight and I couldn't make it bigger. Honestly I wish I could of kept them in the 5 point harness longer. I'm not totally sold on the booster seat with the seatbelt. Just doesn't seem/look as safe to me.

So I would keep him in the 5 point harness as long as you can.



answers from Sacramento on

you know I don't know the answer...but you can contact your local dept of transportation or police department and they can direct you to the organization or dept that can give you the exact answers and sometimes you can go to them and they can give you tips etc....



answers from San Francisco on

You have to check the manual on the Recaro and see what the weight limit is on the 5 point harness. We have the britax frontier and you can use the 5 point harness up to 80 pounds. As far as I know there is not a mandatory age/weight to use the seatbelt. The only thing I do know about using the seatbelt, is if you are using the latch system, most cars require you to switch from the latch to the seatbelt at 40-48 pounds. You'll need to check your car manual for that. Otherwise, I have also heard from car seat inspectors to keep children in the 5 point harness as long as you can.



answers from San Francisco on

I took my daughter out of the 5-pt harness when she was 7. That only happened because she puked all over the carseat and the straps needed washing.

She's 8 and in a booster at 54 pounds.


answers from Fresno on

contact your local/county health dept - ours has a specific safety person that "does" carseats, sells them discounted, helps install them along with all other bike or home safety, home visits, etc concerns with kids.



answers from Bakersfield on

I often find it funny/interesting that we get more than one similiar type questions in a day or possibly even two. Another mommy was asking about carseat recommendations also.

To answer your question, No it is definitely not mandatory for you to use a seatbelt instead of a harness! At that point, I believe, it is not against the law, so if you get pulled over and don't have him in a harness, you're ok. However, for all us moms/dads who worry about our children's safety, there are better options than the standard booster. The following is the exact response I sent the other mommy:

My 22 month-old is in a Sunshine Kids Radian 80. I just moved her at 17 months because she didn't outgrow/hit the weight requirement until then. I do like it very much. It's received very high safety ratings and is very user friendly. As the other mom noted, it folds for travel and is narrow for easily fitting more than one in most cars. I also like that my daughter will be in it until she no longer needs to be in a booster since it will accomodate a child up to 80 lbs. (There are also height limits which some children reach well before they reach the weight limit, but as my daughter is tiny, I don't think this will be an issue at all.) My new baby will arrive shortly and though my husband has stated that he wants to get him a Radian also, I prefer to use a traditional baby carrier for him so I can take him in and out of the car while still in it. Also the rear-facing feature on the radian seems to take up more space. Once he outgrows the carrier, he'll definitely go in a Radian. The ONE negative for me is that front-facing the seat sits flush against the car's seat back with no recline and when my baby falls asleep, her head droops even with the head support. I have heard of others who had the same problem but were able to find other cushions, etc to solve the problem. (Even with this drawback, I still do love this seat.) I have already washed the cover 3 times and one of those times my 14 year-old step-daughter did it and was able to put it all back with ease. The first 2 times just because of spills from her sippy cup, etc. This last time she had an accident where her diaper exploded, so I am very happy at how easy it is to remove, clean, and re-attach.

Anyway there is my plug. Good luck to you regardless of which product you choose. There are many great ones, so I completely get what a hard decision it is. BTW I chose this one out of the 3 recommended/mentioned by the Kyle Miller family/foundation?? Here is a link to the sad info regarding this family. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azgBhZfcqaQ

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