Your child’s age, height and weight determine which car safety seat is appropriate for your child. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides these guidelines on choosing your child’s first seat and deciding when it’s time to move to the next level:
Rear-facing safety seats are for infants:
Forward-facing safety seats are for toddlers:
- Infants should ride in rear-facing safety seat from birth until they exceed the height and weight limit listed for their particular seat.
- Place infants in the back seat, never in the front (If the front airbag deploys, it could impact the seat back, posing a serious risk of head injury).
- Infants should remain rear-facing until they are at least 1 year old and weigh 20 lbs.
Convertible safety seats:
- Toddlers are big enough to sit in forward-facing safety seats.
- But they must remain secured in the back seat of the car from age 1 and 20 lbs until age 4 and 40 lbs, or until they outgrow the height and weight limit for their particular seat.
Booster seats are for older children
- Can be used as rear-facing seats when your child is an infant, then converted to be forward-facing seats, when the time comes.
Adult seat belts:
- Children usually outgrow car safety seats at age 4 and 40 lbs. and are ready for booster seats.
- From then until they are tall enough for an adult seat belt to fit properly, they should remain in forward-facing booster seats in the back seat of the car.
- A child is usually ready for the adult seat belt at age 8, or as soon as he or she reaches 4’ 9” in height. Have your child try out the adult belt, from time to time. You’ll know it fits properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt lays across the chest. If the shoulder strap crosses the neck, instead of the chest, it’s definitely too soon to switch to adult seat belts.