What size car seat should my child be in?

The size and type of car seat you should use for your child depends on his/her age and weight. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines, children should be kept in an age- and weight-appropriate car restraint until they are big enough to use a regular seat belt correctly. 

Choosing the Right Car Seat for Your Child

What size car seat should my child be in?

  • Birth to 12 months: Place children under 12 months should in a rear-facing car seat. Continue to use a rear-facing car seat until your child reaches the maximum height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer. With some children, this means they may be able to use the seat up until the time they are two years old.
  • One to three years: Once the child has outgrown the rear-facing position, s/he should sit in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. Again, use this type of seat until your child reaches the max height/weight limit provided by the manufacturer. Kids should remain in a forward-facing seat until at least their fourth birthday but possibly longer if they haven’t exceeded the weight limit.
  • Four to seven years: Children aged four and older should sit in a booster seat. Continue to use a booster seat until they can use a seat belt. Note, the seat belt should be worn correctly, i.e., the shoulder belt should lay across their chest, not cut into their neck or behind the back. The recommended height to wear a regular seat belt is 57 inches.

It’s also important to note that kids under the age of 12 should not be allowed to sit in the front seat in cars with a passenger airbag. Should the airbag deploy with a child in front, it could cause serious damages in a car accident.

Resources to Find the Best Car Seat

If you’re unsure of what type of position is best for your child, you can use the NHTSA’s Car Seat Finder tool, enter the following to determine what seat is the best match for your baby.

  • Birthdate
  • Weight
  • Height

If you’re in the market for a new car seat, you might want to check Consumer Reports for recommended seats and safety ratings. You can also check the NHTSA’s safercar.gov to check for child seat recalls or if there are have been any safety complaints filed.

For more interesting articles, feel free to visit our regularly updated car accidents blog on the Law Office of Julie Johnson website.

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