Infant and child car seats save lives. The laws in each state are different. Most states require them for all children under age 4 and those weighing less than 40 lb (18 kg). But some states require car seats to be used for children up to age 6 or 60 lb (27 kg).
A child who is not in a car seat can be seriously injured or killed during a crash or an abrupt stop, even at low speeds. A parent's arms are not strong enough to hold and protect a baby during a car accident. Many unrestrained children die because they are torn from an adult's arms during an accident.
Set a good example for your children by always wearing your own seat belt. And always insist that they buckle up.
Buy a car seat appropriate for your child's current age, weight, or height. For safety, it is very important to have a car seat that fits your child and faces the right direction.1
Don't buy a used car seat. If a car seat has been recalled or has been in an accident or misused, it may not fully protect your baby.
The safest position for your baby or child is in the back, middle seat of the car.
For maximum safety, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for car seat use, which should include weight guidelines, installation procedures, and how to position and secure your child. Cars manufactured since September 2002 are equipped with a standardized car safety seat attachment system. This feature allows parents to secure the car seat onto a permanently installed hook.
Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians can help you install your car seat and position your child safely. To find help in your area, go to www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm or www.seatcheck.org. You can also call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 1-888-327-4236.
Do not let your child get out of his or her seat while the car is moving. If your child needs attention, stop the car, take the child out of the seat, take care of his or her needs, and put him or her back into the seat before the car starts moving again. If your child is fussy again soon after, stop and check your child again.
Last Revised: January 22, 2013
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