With my oldest going in to 1st grade and my youngest going in to her last year of preschool (pre-K) it really has me thinking about safety and boosters and when's the right age. But it's really not about age, it's more about height and making sure the safety belt fits properly. I have to keep reminding myself of that simple fact.
The more I pick up their friends and take them with us the more I realize how lax people get as their children get older and reach school age. I find my son actually crying to me that he doesn't want to use his booster with a back because his friends don't have to use one. Asking me "Why do I have to?" telling me "I feel like a baby" in it. I have to admit, he may not need the back at this point, but what have I got to loose right. It has that little bit more of side impact protection and gives him a place to rest his head on longer trips. So he's asked me to take the back off when we're staying around town, but don't most accidents happen within a 5 mile radius of your house? So I am holding strong on this one and he's using the back. But I have run in to instances when his friends parents, even my own sister have let their 6 or 7 year old sit without any booster. The general guidelines are 4'9" and/or at least age 8. The laws vary by state and you can check them out here. They'll even tell you what the fine is on this site. But most pediatricians will tell you 4'9". I had an 8 year old ask me if she needed to use a booster in my car the other day and I pulled out the tape measure and said let's see.... nope. She wasn't close to the proper height. She seemed ok with it once she knew why. I think educating our kids and ourselves and not letting us get lazy with car seat use just because our kids are growing up is very important. A simple backless booster isn't difficult to install or use. If you need help or more information check out the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration website. Or if you need a place to check how to properly install yours check out SeatCheck.org.