Child Safety Seats: Required by Law and Necessary for Safety

How important is a car seat? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is very important for a child’s safety. Traffic accident fatalities are the leading cause of death in children age 3 to 8 years old.

In 1971, the federal government established minimum standards for child safety seats and restraint systems to reduce the number of children killed or injured in motor vehicle crashes. These specific laws vary by state, and are frequently updated, but in general, children under age one must be in a child safety seat facing rearward, children over age one need to be in a child safety seat or booster seat until as old as age 8, and it is recommended that children under age 12 always ride in the backseat.

The NHSI recommends parents:

  • Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, and choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.
  • Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions; read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system; and check height and weight limits.
  • To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements. Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.

You can find a Child Car Seat Inspection Station near you at These inspection stations generally offer the service at no charge.

To learn more about your state’s laws, visit your state’s DMV web site or review the information in your state’s driver’s manual.

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