The laws are not always terribly specific with regard to car seat laws for children. For example, while all 50 states require child safety seats for infants and children fitting certain criteria, these laws differ by individual state. It is important to be aware of the laws in your state, whether for your own children, for carpool purposes, or for transporting children of friends of family members.
General guidelines are as follows:
- From birth to 12 months: Infants should ride in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the car.
- From 1-3 years: Keep children in a rear-facing seat as long as possible. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing seat, they are ready to travel in a forward facing seat.
- 4-7 years: Child should ride in a forward facing seat with a harness, and once outgrown, should move to a booster, still remaining in the back seat of the car.
- 8-12 years: Keep children in booster seats until they are big enough to fit in an adult seat belt properly. Lap belts must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach and shoulder belts should lie snug across the shoulder and chest, and not cross the neck or face.
The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines advise parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they exceed the height or weight for the seat, according to manufacturer specifications.
Many kids feel that they should graduate to the front seat much earlier, but the guideline set by both the CDC and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that all children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat.
A few other car seat safety tips:
- It is important to remember to read both your car seat’s manual and your car’s manual to ensure proper car seat installation.
- Make sure harness belts are snug, not loose fitting.
- Use the tether properly with intended anchors.
- Don’t hesitate to consult a professional certified technician for help if necessary.
- Be consistent. Always use the car seat or booster seat.
- Make sure that you always wear your seat belt.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user &koia&, licensed for use via Creative Commons)