Car Safety

"The baby will stop crying if I just hold her in my lap."
"He thinks he's a big boy and won't sit in his booster seat."
"We're not going very far."

These are NOT acceptable reasons for not using a child safety seat.

In fact, there is no excuse for not using the appropriate car seats and child safety belts every time your child rides in a motor vehicle. Car crashes remain the number one killer of children ages 3-14 in the United States. Even if you're a careful driver, you cannot control other drivers' behavior or eliminate the possibility of a crash.

So follow these basic guidelines for safely transporting children in a motor vehicle, and have your child's safety seat inspected to make sure it meets current standards and to ensure that you know how to properly use and install it in your vehicle. It's estimated that 85 percent of children who are placed in child safety seats and booster seats are improperly restrained.

Which child safety seat should you be using?
It all depends on the age and size of your child. Here are the basic guidelines for keeping your child safe in a car or other motor vehicle by using the appropriate child safety seat.

Rear-facing Seats
For the best possible protection, keep infants in the back seat in rear-facing child safety seats as long as possible, up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants in a rear-facing seat until age 1 and at least 20 pounds.

Forward-facing Seats
When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at a minimum, age 1 and at least 20 pounds), they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats in the back seat until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).

Booster Seats
Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats in the back seat until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they are 4'9" tall).

Seat Belts
When children outgrow their booster seats, (usually at age 8 or when they are 4'9" tall), they can use the adult seat belt in the back seat if it fits properly (lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest). All children under age 13 should ride in the back seat.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

For more information, along with instructional videos on how to properly install child safety seats, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.

Still have questions? Check out the Safe Kids Car Seat FAQs.

In addition to always using the proper child safety seats, follow these other important car safety tips:

  • Always take a quick walk around your vehicle before driving to make sure there are no children, pets or other objects in your path.
  • Never leave your young child alone in a car for any amount of time. A delay of just a few minutes on a warm day can be fatal. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child's core body temperature may increase three to five times as fast as an adult.
  • Teach your kids that a vehicle is never a safe place to play. A car trunk can look like a fun place to play or hide, but it can be fatal if a child is trapped and unable to get out. Always lock car doors and trunks, and keep keys out of children's reach. If your car comes with a trunk release safety feature, teach your child how to use it.
  • Be a good role model for your kids - always wear your seat belt no matter how far you're driving.

Car Seat FAQs
Find an Inspection Station
Safe Kids Car Seat Inspection Events
Keeping Kids Safe: Inside & Out
Child Safety Seat Restraint Checklist
Child Seat Ratings