Frequently Asked Questions

Child Passenger Safety

Traveling Safely with Children

Children are not small adults. They need health care that is tailored to their unique needs, involves their parents from start to finish and is provided in places designed to be kid-sized and child-friendly.

  • Everybody needs a child safety seat, booster seat or safety belt.
  • There must be one safety belt for each person. Buckling two people, even children, into one belt could injure both.
  • People who are not buckled up can be thrown from the car or around inside the car, and seriously hurt themselves or others.
  • Never hold a child on your lap. You could crush him/her in a crash, or the child may be torn from your arms.
  • Never ride in the cargo area of a station wagon, van or pickup. Anyone riding in the cargo area could be thrown out and severely injured or killed.
  • No one seat is "best". The "best" child safety seat is the one that fits your child and can be installed correctly.
  • Children age 12 and under should ride properly restrained in back.

Choosing and Using the Correct Seat

Age: Birth to 1 year
Weight: up to 35 pounds

Type of seat:
Infant-only or rear-facing
convertible

Direction to face:
Infants should ride rear-facing to at least 1 year of age and at least 20 pounds, longer if possible. The seat should be at a 30- to 45-degree angle to keep the child's head from falling forward. Do not tip it too far back or the child could come out of the seat in a crash.

Note: Infants who outgrow a smaller infant-only seat before 1 year of age should ride rear-facing in a child safety seat with a higher rear-facing weight limit (over 22 pounds).

Age: 1 year to 4 years old
Weight: Over 20 pounds,
up to 40 pounds

Type of seat:
Convertible or forward-facing-only seat

Direction to face:
A child over 1 year of age and over 20 pounds may ride facing forward. Use the upright position or the position recommended by the manufacturer.

Note: Keep the child in a child safety seat with a full harness as long as possible, preferably until 4 years old. For children 40 pounds or more who are too young or too active to sit still in a booster seat, or if a vehicle has only lap belts, look for child restraints with harnesses labeled for use over 40 pounds.

Age: 4 to 9 years old
Weight: Over 40 pounds

Type of seat:
Belt-positioning booster seat, backless or high-back

Direction to face:
Forward-facing

Note: All children who have outgrown child safety seats should be properly restrained in booster seats until they are at least 9 years old, or are 4'9" or taller.

Booster seats boost children up to ensure correct seat belt fit. The lap belt should lie across the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt should lie across the chest. Booster seats MUST be used with a lap AND shoulder seat belt system. A child riding in a seat with a lap-only belt can be seriously hurt in a crash.

Warning: The back seat is the safest place in a crash. Children age 12 and under should ride properly restrained in back. Infants riding rear-facing must NEVER be placed in front of an airbag.