Caring for Family

Car Seat Safety as Baby Grows

Car Seat Safety as Baby Grows

Keeping your child safe is one of your most important jobs as a parent, and that means making sure your child is safely restrained while riding in a vehicle. Here are some car seat safety tips every parent needs to know:

  • Don't use a car seat that has been in a crash, or a car seat that is more than 6 years old (or older than suggested for use by the manufacturer).
  • Use a rear-facing seat until at least age 2. Studies show that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or incur a serious injury when in a rear-facing seat.
  • Always install car seats in the back seat of the vehicle. Use the LATCH system if available or the car's seat belts (see car seat instruction manual and vehicle owner's manual).
  • Consider having your safety seat inspected for proper installation in your car by a certified child safety seat technician. Find your nearest car seat inspection location through safercar.gov.
  • Always check that harnesses and belts are in the proper position and fit snugly over your child.
Type of car seat Size of child General guidelines Notes
Rear-facing infant seat Infants up to 22 or 35 pounds, depending on the model All children should ride rear-facing until 2 years old or they reach the height/weight limit of the seat set by the manufacturer In cold weather, cover baby with blankets placed on top of the harness straps (never under the harness straps).
Rear-facing convertible seat Infants and toddlers up to 40 pounds or more, depending on the model Rear-facing is the best position for children until 2 years old or they outgrow the rear-facing height/weight limit for the car seat. A rear-facing car seat better protects the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers.
Forward facing car seat (convertible and combination seats) Children up to 65 or 80 pounds, depending on the model Children should ride in a seat with a five-point harness as long as possible, at least until age 4. Be sure to readjust the harness straps as your child grows.
Booster seat Children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seat should ride with a belt-positioning booster seat in the back seat. Children should ride in a booster seat until they reach 4 feet 9 inches (typically between ages 8 and 12). The shoulder strap should fit snugly across the child's chest (not touching the neck or throat) and the lap belt should fit snugly over the thighs (not the waist or stomach).

If you have questions about choosing the correct car seat for your child, ask your pediatrician for the latest American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations or visit www.nhtsa.gov/safety/cps. Beginning January 2015 the Booster Seat Law will be in effect. Children through age 5 years will be required to be secured in a booster seat. Read more about the latest car seat safety recommendations at the MyIlluminate blog: What's your car seat IQ?