Car Seat Laws and Guidelines
Know What to Look For When Buying and Using a Car Seat
Transporting a young child can come with many different questions and concerns. You want to protect your most precious cargo. Which car seat do I need? Is it fastened securely? Is my child the right size for their seat? We know you're dealing with these questions and more, and it can be hard to find all the information you need.
We've compiled some useful resources pertaining to state car seat laws, general guidelines, and tips to keep your little ones safe. Remember to register your car seat for recall notices and avoid using old, possibly damaged hand-me-down seats as well. Doing some extra research will help prevent injuries to your children in the event of an accident.
1. State-by-State Car Seat Laws – Check the minimum standard requirements for car seats in your area by using our state-by-state map. Keep in mind that minimum requirements are a good place to start, but don't stop there.
2. Manufacturer Limits – Make sure you know the specific weight and height limits of your car seat model. Visit this American Academy of Pediatrics car seat product list to search for your brand and model limits.
3. Health & Safety Organizations – Follow the safety guidelines set out by reputable child safety advocacy groups. They'll offer valuable information to keep your child safe, no matter their age, weight, or height.
Visit the Following Pages for Valuable Car Seat Information
- Safety Tips for Car Seats – Visit our comprehensive list of safety pointers and advice for keeping your kids safe in their car seats.
- Child Passenger Safety Infographic – Print out and share this great visual that illustrates the important facts and details of car seat safety.
- Get Your Car Seat Inspected – Use the NHTSA's Car Seat Inspection Station Locator to find local professionals who'll make sure your car seat is set up correctly.
- Car Seat Check Smartphone App – Look for the AAP's "Car Seat Check" app for iOS and Android phones. It provides expert advice on proper child car seat use.
Car Seat Recommendations
Infants/Toddlers - Rear-facing only seats and rear-facing convertible seats
Keep infants and toddlers younger than 2 years of age in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the weight or height limit provided by the car seat's manufacturer.
Toddlers/Preschoolers - Convertible seats and forward-facing seats with harness
Children over age 2 who have reached the manufacturer weight or height limit for their rear-facing car seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
They should stay in this seat until they reach the highest weight or height limit allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. This also applies to any child younger than 2 years who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit of their seat.
School-Aged Children – Booster seats
Children who outgrow the weight and height limits of a forward-facing car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, usually after reaching a height of 4'9 and are between age 8 and 12.
Older Children – Seat belts
Older children should always use lap and shoulder seat belts to provide the best protection and should sit in the back seat until 13 years of age.
Visit HealthyChildren.org for more information from the AAP.
Birth - 12 months – Rear-facing car seat
All children under age 1 should be restrained in a rear-facing car seat, convertible car seat, or 3-in-1 car seat. Check your car seat's height and weight limits for the rear-facing position and keep them in it as long as possible.
1 - 3 years – Rear-facing car seat or forward-facing car seat with harness
Keep your child seated in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. At that point, the child should sit in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
4 - 7 years – Forward-facing car seat with harness or booster seat
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it's time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
8 - 12 years – Booster seat or seat belt
Children should continue to use a booster seat until your vehicle's seat belt fits properly without it. Make sure the lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt must lie across the chest or shoulder rather, not crossing the child's neck or face. Children should remain in the back seat of your car.
Visit the NHTSA website to learn more.