Child Safety Seats

Regardless of age or weight, all children must be in a safety seat or booster seat or wear a seat belt while riding in a vehicle. Laws and regulations regarding child vehicle safety vary from state to state. Follow the laws in your area.

Safety seats and booster seats save children's lives. Failure to use a child restraint system may increase the risk of death or serious injury to a child in an accident. Failure to properly secure a child in a safety seat or booster seat is illegal.

Rear-Facing Seats

Keep children in the rear seat of a vehicle in a rear-facing safety seat until the age of 2 years or until they reach the upper weight and height limit of their safety seat.

Forward-Facing Seats

All children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the weight and height limits of the rear-facing safety seat, should ride in a forward-facing safety seat with a harness. Forward-facing safety seats should be placed in the rear seat. A child should ride in a forward-facing child safety seat until reaching the upper weight and height limit of the forward-facing safety seat. At a minimum, a child will need a forward-facing safety seat until the age of 4 years. Signs that a child has outgrown the forward-facing safety seat include:

  • Being over the weight and height limits of the seat.

  • Having shoulders above the top harness slots.

  • Having ears at or above the top of the seat.

Booster Seats

Once children have outgrown forward-facing safety seats, they should ride in forward-facing booster seats until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Booster seats should be placed in the rear seat. Signs that a child has outgrown a booster seat and can use the vehicle seat belts include:

  • Wearing the vehicle shoulder belt across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck.

  • Wearing the vehicle lap belt low and snug across the upper thighs, not the belly.

  • Being able to sit against the vehicle seat back with knees bent over the vehicle seat bottom cushion.

The vehicle seat belts usually fit properly when a child reaches a height of 4 ft 9 inches (145 cm). This is usually between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.

Vehicle Seat Belts

Children who have outgrown their booster seats should use vehicle seat belts and ride in the rear seat until reaching 13 years of age.

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 over 5 to 6 years old.

  • Never use a safety seat with an unknown history.