Skip to Content
Health Fact Sheets

Child Safety Seats (revised August 2010)

Always Remember Before Each Ride . . .

  • Place your infant in the child safety seat on the first ride home from the hospital. Children who ride in safety seats as infants are much easier to keep in the seats as toddlers.
  • Never hold a child in your lap while riding.
  • Send in the car seat registration card to be notified in case your car seat is recalled.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for correct installation.
  • Get a tight fit--the seat should not move more than one inch from side to side or toward the front of the vehicle.
  • Be consistent! Correctly buckle the car seat into the vehicle on every ride.
  • Remember, infants face backward. Toddlers face forward. The rear seat is the safest place in the vehicle.
  • Never secure an infant in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger air bag. The back seat is the safest place for children of any age.
  • Never use a car seat that has been involved in a crash.
  • Set a good example by using your safety belt every time you travel.

Infants

Infant rear-facing car seats are designed for babies until at least one year old and 20 pounds. Some newer infant-only models are designed for babies up to 30 pounds. Infants must ride in the back seat facing the rear of the vehicle. This offers the best protection for the infant’s neck. Never put an infant in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger air bag.

Rear-facing car seats can be infant or convertible models. A rear-facing seat should recline at a 45 degree angle to keep a baby’s head from rolling forward and blocking their airway. Keep harness straps snug (allow one finger of space under the harness at the collarbone) and fasten harness clip at armpit level.

Some models have a base that can be left installed in the vehicle while the seat is used to carry the baby. If the car seat has a carrying handle, put it down while in the vehicle.

Toddlers

Children over one year old and between 20 and 40 pounds can be in forward-facing car seats. Forward-facing seats can be convertible, built-in seats, or forward-facing only models.

Place the car seat in upright position. Fasten the harness clip at armpit level. Keep harness straps snug. Route harness straps in upper slots at or above shoulder level.

Small Children

Children between 40 and 80 pounds (usually between 4 to 8 years old) should be in booster seats. Booster seats are designed for children who have outgrown their child safety seat, but have not reached the upper weight or height limit for the vehicle seat belt to fit properly.

All booster child restraints are designed for forward-facing use only. Some booster seats must be used with both lap and shoulder belts. Each manufacturer provides specific instructions regarding proper use and installation of their child seats.

Older Children

Usually children over 80 pounds can fit correctly in adult seat belts. For the best possible protection, even older children should use adult seat belts in the back seat Lap and shoulder belts should fit low over the hips and upper thighs and shoulder belt fits snug across the chest. This is usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9” tall.

Never put shoulder belts under a child's arm or behind the back. Review your owner's manual to fully understand how your safety belts work.

Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website for additional information on child passenger safety.