Car Seats, Booster Seats, and Seat Belts

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Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children. Many children may be riding at risk because of improper car seat use -- or how and where they are sitting. It is important to use the right type of restraint based upon your child’s age and size. As your child ages, follow these four steps – one step at a time – to keep your child safe in the car.

View all of our car seat safety publications that are available for order.

Step 1: Rear-Facing Car Seats

Images of proper rear-facing, forward facing, booster seat and safety belt use

Use a rear-facing car seat until your child is two years old. Your child should also be up to the car seat’s highest weight or height limit. Babies who outgrow infant-only car seats should be placed in a convertible or all-in-one car seat. Put it in the rear-facing position.

Step 2: Forward-Facing Car Seats

Use a forward-facing car seat when your child outgrows the rear-facing weight or height limit. Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and a tether. Your child should stay in this seat until they are up to the car seat’s highest weight or height limit.

Step 3: Booster Seats

Use a belt-positioning booster seat when your child’s weight or height is above the car seat’s forward-facing limit. Keep your child in a booster seat until the lap and shoulder belts fit properly. This typically happens when they are 8 to 12 years old.

Step 4: Seat Belts

Use a lap and shoulder belt when the seat belts fit your child properly. The lap belt should be low and snug across your child’s upper thighs. The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of their chest and shoulder. Children should be tall enough to comfortably bend their knees over the edge of the back seat with their back against the vehicle seat.

All children under age 13 should ride in the back seat.

IMPORTANT! Always read and follow your car owner’s manual and the manufacturer’s instructions for your car seat when using and installing your car seat.

Other Safety Tips

  1. Restrain your child on every trip. Most crashes occur at low speeds and close to home.
  2. The best seat fits your child's size, is correctly installed and is used properly every time.
  3. Weigh and measure your child often to make sure the right type of restraint is being used.
  4. Set a good example for your child. Buckle up!

Need Help?

Your car seat can be checked by a certified child passenger safety technician. They can also answer your questions about child passenger safety. Find a car seat event or inspection station in your area.

For more information about child passenger safety:

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