Child Safety Seat Use Chart

Infant/Toddler

Car safety devices:

  • Infant seat.

  • Rear-facing convertible seat (converts from a rear-facing to a forward-facing position).

  • 3-in-1 seat (use rear-facing position).

Seat position:

  • Until 2 years of age or until they reach the height or weight limit of the safety seat, infants or toddlers should be seated in a rear-facing position only.

General guidelines:

  • If there is more than 1 harness slot, the harness should be at or below the child's shoulders.

  • Angle the safety seat so the infant's head is not flopping forward. The safety seat must not be angled more than a 45 degree angle. Use angle adjusters on the safety seat or tilt the safety seat with a rolled towel under the front of the seat. Older children who are able to maintain head control can be in a more upright position.

  • The side of the safety seat can be padded with rolled cloths to prevent small infants from slouching to the side. Nothing should be added under, behind, or between the child and the harness.

  • Any carry handle must be in the correct position, either around the top of the seat or under the seat.

Toddler/Preschooler

Car safety devices:

  • Forward-facing convertible seat (converts from a rear-facing to a forward-facing and includes 3-in-1 seats).

  • Forward-facing seat with a harness.

  • Combination forward-facing booster seat with a harness.

  • Travel vest.

  • Built-in seat.

Seat position:

  • A child who is older than 2 years or who's height and weight is over the limit for a rear-facing position can ride in a forward-facing safety seat with a harness.

General guidelines:

  • Children should ride in a harnessed safety seat as long as possible, at least to age 4 years or until they have outgrown the weight or height limits of the safety seat.

  • If there is more than 1 harness slot on a convertible seat, the harness should be at or above the child's shoulders.

  • Some convertible seats require top harness slots for the forward-facing position.

  • Convertible seats may also be equipped with a tether cord that secures the back of the child seat to the vehicle for extra security.

School-Age Child

Car safety devices:

  • Booster seat (use until outgrown and adult belts fit correctly).

Seat position:

  • Once the child's height or weight is over the limit for the forward-facing safety seat, the child can ride in a forward-facing belt-positioning booster seat.

General guidelines:

  • Signs that a child has outgrown the forward-facing safety seat:

  • Over the weight or height limit for the safety seat.

  • Shoulders are above the top of harness slots.

  • Ears are at or above the top of the safety seat.

  • Always use both shoulder and lap belts to secure the booster seat.

  • The shoulder belt should be snug and cross the middle of the child's chest and shoulder.

  • The lap belt should fit low and tight across the child's upper thigh.

  • If the vehicle only has lap belts:

  • Use a forward-facing safety seat with a harness and higher weight limits.

  • Check to see if shoulder belts can be installed.

  • Use a travel vest.

  • Change to a new vehicle with shoulder belts.

Older Child

Car safety devices:

  • Lap and shoulder seat belt.

Seat position:

  • A child should be in a forward-facing belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly.

General guidelines:

  • Lap and shoulder belts should be used once your child has outgrown the forward-facing booster seat.

  • Your child can use lap and shoulder belts if:

  • The belts fit your child. Vehicle seat belts typically fit a child who is  4 ft, 9 inches (145 cm) tall and between 8 years and 12 years old.

  • The shoulder belt is across the middle of the child's chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat.

  • The lap belt is low and snug across the child's upper thighs, not the belly.

  • The child is tall enough to sit against the seat with knees bent.

  • Never let your child tuck the shoulder belt under an arm or behind the back.

  • Never share seat belts.

Warnings and Important Notes

  • Air bags can cause serious head and neck injury or death in children, especially in rear-facing safety seats or in children who are not properly restrained. If there are front seat air bags in your vehicle, infants in rear-facing safety seats should ride in the rear seat. All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat. The center of the rear seat is the safest position. In vans, the safest position is the middle seat rather than the rear seat. If a vehicle does not have a rear seat and it is absolutely necessary for a child under the age of 13 years to ride in the front seat:

  • Front air bags must be automatically deactivated or manually turned off.

  • Use a forward-facing safety seat with a harness.

  • Move the safety seat back from the dashboard (and the air bag) as far as you can.

  • The child safety seat should be installed and used as directed in the child safety seat instructions and vehicle owner's manual.

  • The safety seat must be installed tightly in the vehicle. After installing the safety seat, you should check for correct installation by pulling the safety seat firmly from side to side and from the back of the vehicle to the front of the vehicle. A correctly installed safety seat should not move more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) forward, backward, or sideways. A forward-facing safety seat without a tether may have a small amount of movement at the top of the safety seat.

  • The safety seat harness should fit the child snugly. The pinch test is 1 method to check the harness for a correct fit. To perform a pinch test:

  • Grab the harness at the shoulder level.

  • Try to pinch the harness together from top to bottom.

  • The harness fits correctly if you cannot pinch a vertical fold on the harness. The harness will need to be readjusted with any change in the thickness of your child's clothing.

  • Vehicles made before 1996 may have vehicle seat belts that do not lock unless the vehicle stops suddenly. Locking clips may be needed in these vehicles to secure the safety seat. The locking clip is usually placed around the vehicle seat belt above the buckle. Use the locking clip as directed in your safety seat instructions.

  • Vehicles made after 2002 may have a Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system for securing safety seats. Vehicles with LATCH systems will have anchors, in addition to seat belts, in the rear seat, which can be used to secure safety seats.

This information is based on guidelines created by the American Academy of Pediatrics concerning child vehicle safety. Laws and regulations regarding child vehicle safety vary from state to state.

Depending on the model:

  • Some infant safety seats can be used by children who weigh up to 35 lb (15.9 kg).

  • Some convertible safety seats can be used by children who weigh up to 40 lb (18.1 kg).

  • Some 3-in-1 safety seats can be used by children who weigh up to 40 lb (18.1 kg).

  • Some forward-facing safety seats with a harness can be used by children who weigh up to 80 lb (36.3 kg).

  • Some combination forward-facing booster safety seats can be used by children who weigh up to 80 lb (36.3 kg) with a harness.

  • Some combination forward-facing booster seats can be used by children who weigh up to100 lb (45.4 kg) without the harness (as a booster).

  • Travel vests can be worn by children who weigh between 20 lb and 168 lb (9.1 to 76.2 kg).

Safety seat recommendations:

  • Replace a safety seat following a moderate or severe crash.

  • Never use a safety seat that is damaged.

  • Never use a safety seat that is more than 5 to 6 years old.

  • Never use a safety seat with an unknown history.

  • Review vehicle instructions regarding seat placement if the vehicle is equipped with side curtain air bags.