The Right Car Seat at the Right Time for Your Child

Keeping your most precious cargo safe and secure while on the roadways should be easy, right? Most parents recognize it’s not quite that simple. Between children outgrowing their car seats and detailed instruction manuals, it can be enough to confuse even the most careful parents.

Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 23-29, marks the ideal time to ensure the car seats in your family’s vehicles are the recommended ones and are installed properly, especially as an estimated 59 percent are not. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every 33 seconds one child under the age of 13 is involved in a car crash. Proper use of car seats, booster seats and seat belts can help make sure our kids stay safe.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) recently updated its recommendations for car seat use. It now advises that all children stay in a rear-facing seat until they reach the manufacturer’s weight or height limits – even if it’s beyond the age of 2. The previous recommendation was until at least age 2.

Certified technicians at many police stations, fire stations and car dealerships will check whether a car seat is correctly installed. Find a location near you.

The Right Car Seat at the Right Time
Rear Facing: 

  • Infant: Infants and small babies start with rear-facing infant car seats. 
  • 8-9 months: By the time babies are 8-9 months old, they likely have outgrown their infant car seat and moved into a convertible seat that remains rear-facing. 
  • Stay in a rear-facing seat until child reaches the seat's weight or height limits. 

Front Facing: 

  • After transitioning to a front-facing seat, remain there until the child reaches the seat's weight or height limits. 
  • Move to a booster seat when over the previous limits but under 4'9".

Seat Belt: 

  • Age 8-12: Once a child is 8 years old if at least 4'9" tall they can use an adult seat belt in the back seat. 
  • Age 12+: Children should remain in the back seat at least through age 12. 

American Academy of Pediatrics:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: