Washington D.C. requires all children under 8 years old to be secured in a child restraint system.
Children under 3 years old must be restrained in car seats with internal harnesses.
But children ages 3 and up may be secured in a booster seat instead.
Booster Seat Requirements District of Columbia
Children must ride in a booster seat in D.C. until they reach ONE of the following requirements:
- Booster Seat Age: 8 years
- Booster Seat Weight: unspecified
- Booster Seat Height: unspecified
Once a child reaches 8 years old, the child may legally transition to a regular seatbelt.
However, it is recommended a child continue to ride in a booster seat until they reach the safe seatbelt height of 4’9″.
Where can I get my booster seat checked or installed in the District of Columbia?
The District Department of Transportation’s Project Safe-Child operates Child Safety Seat Pick-Up Locations for residents.
These locations provide child safety seats free of charge and also have technicians on hand who can help you with the installation of a booster seat (or check your installation) by appointment.
See the Child Safety Seat Pick-Up Locations page on the District Department of Transportation website for more information.
General Booster Seat Laws FAQ
Are booster seats effective?
According to the CDC, “booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children age 4-8, when compared with seat belt use alone.”
When can a child use a booster seat?
A child can use a booster seat when she outgrows her forward-facing car seat with a harness.
Though the laws on front-facing car seats and booster seats differ by state, for safety’s sake your child should stay in a front-facing (harnessed) child seat until he reaches the maximum height or weight on the seat.
When can a kid stop using a booster seat?
The minimum safe height for use of a regular seat belt without a booster seat is 4’9”.
Due to this, it is recommended your child ride in a booster seat until they are at least 4’9” tall, regardless of their age.
Not all state laws support this.
Many states have minimum ages at which children may transition to regular seatbelts, no matter how tall they are.
But if you want your child to be the safest they can be on the road, you should keep them in a booster seat until they reach 4’9”.
What is the booster seat weight limit?
Different booster seats have different weight limits, typically 100-120 pounds.
But weight isn’t the main determiner of when a child should move from a booster seat to a seat belt.
Height is more important to a seat belt’s fit.
That said, your child should never ride in a booster seat once they exceed the weight limit.
The seats are designed to be safe only for those under the maximum weight.
So, if your child has outgrown the weight limit on their booster, upgrade them to a booster with a higher weight limit or make the transition to a regular seatbelt.
What’s the best booster seat?
The best booster seat is the one that will do the most effective job of keeping your child safe in the event of an accident.
According to Consumer Reports, the top-performing booster seats on the market (as of July 2022) are:
Graco Turbobooster Grow
Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle Plus 120
But you don’t have to buy a separate booster seat if you have a convertible car seat.
For convertible toddler-booster seats and all-in-one car seats with booster functionality, see our car seat buying guide Which Car Seat To Buy: Making Sure Your Little Ones Stay Safe On The Road.
When were booster seats invented?
The very first child seats for cars were more booster seats than car seats.
They were literally designed to “boost” children up so they could see better (and so parents could see them), but they had no built-in safety features.
Booster seats as we know them today, with their focus on transitional safety between car seats and seatbelts, have only been around since the late-1990s to early 2000s when laws requiring them started being implemented.
When did booster seats become mandatory?
Booster seats are not mandatory in all states.
Some states have younger minimum ages and no height requirements for transitioning children from child seats to seatbelts.
In those states, children can typically move directly from forward-facing car seats to regular seatbelts.
As for the states that do have mandatory booster laws, the first laws (Tennessee and South Carolina) went into effect in 2001.
Bridging the Gap Between Car Seats and Seatbelts
Car seats are designed to protect the smallest of children, while seatbelts are only safe for children over a certain height (4’9”).
Booster seats bridge the gap between the two.
While the District of Columbia doesn’t require children over 8 years old to be secured in a booster seat, we recommend following expert guidelines and keeping your kid in a booster until they reach the safe seatbelt height of 4’9″.
And, before that, follow the state’s car seat laws.
For more on D.C.’s car seat laws, see District of Columbia Car Seat Laws.
And for more on child passenger safety in D.C., see District of Columbia Front Seat Law.