Car Seats for Infants and Toddlers

You don't expect it to happen to you, but motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death in the United States.

Using a car seat can greatly reduce the chance of injury and save your child's life if you get in a car accident.

Rear-facing infant and child seats are the best choice for children under age two, or until they reach the weight or height limit for the car seat.

Each safety seat has its own height and weight limit, so it's important to check when choosing a car seat.

When your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he or she should ride in a forward-facing car seat. Your child can usually ride in this until around age five.

After your child outgrows the safety seat, he or she should ride in a booster seat.

When choosing a booster or car seat, make sure that the model fits in your vehicle. Not all models fit in all vehicles.

Know your child's height and weight, and choose the right seat based on your child's measurements.

Also, if your vehicle has a low seat back, consider using a booster seat with a high back when your child is ready.

Make sure the seat has a rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or N H T S A. All seats rated by the N H T S A are safe.

The NHTSA reviews all models of car seats. Their 5-star rating system tells you how easy it is to:

  • Use the instruction manual

  • Install the seat

  • Understand the seat's labels, and

  • Secure your child in the seat.

If you don't have access to the internet, you can call the Department of Transportation Vehicle Safety Hotline without charge at 1-888-327-4236. They can help you find the assistance you need in your local area.

How to Use a Car Seat

Infants and toddlers should always ride in the back seat. Airbags can kill children who ride in the front.

Before you install the booster or car seat, be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

If your vehicle and seat have the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, or LATCH ["latch"] system, be sure to read your vehicle's owner's guide as well.

If your child seat has a top tether and your vehicle has the LATCH ["latch"] system, use the top tether even if you use the seatbelt to install the seat.

Some forward-facing car seats can be changed into booster seats. When your child gets too big for the car seat and it's time to change it to a booster seat, you may want read the instructions again before you put your child in the seat.

Pay special attention to the part about fitting the seat's harness, or using the seat belt for a booster seat. You may need to make adjustments as your child grows.

If you have any questions, the N H T S A has a website where you can find certified technicians to inspect your car or booster seat.

Things to Remember

Car seats and booster seats can save your child's life and reduce the risk of injuries in accidents.

Each car seat and booster seat has its own height and weight limit.

Your child's age and size and the vehicle you own will help determine which car seat you should use.

Infants and toddlers should always ride in the back seat.

What We Have Learned

Car seats have height and weight limits.
True or False?
The answer is true. Check the information from the manufacturer to make sure it is the right size for your child.

Children in booster seats should ride in the front.
True or False?
The answer is false. Children under the age of 12 should always ride in the back seat. Front airbags have enough force to kill a child.