Rules on child car seats

Written by casey rowley
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Rules on child car seats
Make sure you know the rules regarding child car seats. (child in the car image by Natalia Pavlova from

Forward-facing and rear-facing car seats and booster seats are all restraining systems to keep children safe in the car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides general information regarding the safest age and weight limits for car seats. Children under age 13 should ride in the back seat, and the laws requiring children to sit in car seats vary by state.

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Rear-facing Car Seats

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-facing car seats should be used for infants until the minimum of age 1 and who are at least 9.07 Kilogram. Rear-facing seats should be in the back seat, away from the front air bags. Also, NHTSA recommends that parents follow specific height and weight requirements that are listed on the car seat itself. NHTSA gives general rules regarding child char seats, and each state has its own specific laws regarding age and weight requirements. For specific information on each state, visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) website.

Forward-facing Car Seats

Forward-facing car seats should be placed in the back seat and, according to NHTSA, should be used for children who are a minimum of age 1 and at least 9.07 Kilogram. NHTSA states a forward-facing car seat should be used until the child is around age 4 and 40 pounds. Again, the administration recommends that parents look at the specific height and weight requirement of the particular seat.

Booster Seats

When a child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, the seat belt should be able to secure the child properly. A booster seat is a great option to make sure this happens. NHTSA states children who have outgrown a forward-facing car seat and are under the age of 8 or under 4 feet and 9 inches tall should use a booster seat. NHTSA writes, "Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt [lies] across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest."


NHTSA states that all children under the age 13 should ride in the back seat. The Inventive Parent website states as a general rule of thumb, children should be placed in a booster seat until their knees are able to bend over the edge of the seat when sitting properly. The following is a general guide from IIHS regarding the age a child requires a restraint seat: Wyoming and Tennessee--8 and younger; Washington, Utah, Texas, Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine--7 and younger; Idaho, North Dakota, New Mexico, Kentucky and Mississippi--6 and younger; California, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and New Hampshire--5 and younger; Arizona and South Dakota--4 and younger; and Florida--3 and younger.

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