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Child Safety Seats

carseatOne of the most important jobs you have as a parent is keeping your child safe when riding in a vehicle. Each year thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes. Proper use of car safety seats helps keep children safe. But with so many different car safety seats on the market, it’s no wonder many parents find this overwhelming.

The type of seat your child needs depends on several things including age, size, and type of vehicle. To be sure your child is using the most appropriate seat, read on.

Types of car safety seats at a glance

The chart below is a quick guide to where to start your search. Once you’ve found your car safety seat, it’s important to read more about the seat in this guide.

Installing car safety seats correctly

Age Type of Seat General Guidelines
Infants Infant-only and rear-facing convertible All infants should always ride rear-facing until they are 1 year of age and weigh at least 20 pounds.
Toddlers Preschoolers Convertible, combination, and forward-facing Children 1 year of age and at least 20 pounds can ride forward-facing. It is best to ride rear-facing as long as possible.
School-aged children Booster Booster seats are for older children who have outgrown their forward-facing car safety seats. Children should stay in a booster seat until the adult seat belts fit correctly (usually when a child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age).
Older children Seat belts Children who have outgrown their booster seats should ride in a lap and shoulder belt; they should ride in the back seat until 13 years of age.

What you should know about air bags

All new cars come with front air bags. When used with seat belts, air bags work very well to protect teenagers and adults. However, air bags can be very dangerous to children, particularly those riding in rear-facing car safety seats and to child passengers who are not properly positioned. If your vehicle has a front passenger air bag, infants in rear-facing seats must ride in the back seat. Even in a relatively low-speed crash, the air bag can inflate, strike the car safety seat, and cause serious brain and neck injury and death.

Vehicles with no back seat or a back seat that is not made for passengers are not the best choice for traveling with small children. However, the air bag can be turned off in some of these vehicles if the front seat is needed for a child passenger. See your vehicle owner’s manual for more information.

If you need installation help

If you have questions or need help installing your car safety seat, find a certified CPS Technician. A list of certified CPS Technicians is available by state or ZIP code on the NHTSA Web site.

A list of inspection stations—where you can go to learn how to correctly install a car safety seat—is available in English and Spanish at www.seatcheck.org or toll-free at 866/SEATCHECK (866/732-8243). You can also get this information by calling the toll-free NHTSA Auto Safety Hotline at 888/DASH-2-DOT (888/327-4236) from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm ET, Monday through Friday.

For more information please visit HealthyChildren.org

To see a list of local Child Safety Seat Technician, visit NHTSA.gov (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)