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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety for Child Passengers

by Amanda Hamm
  • Overview

    Child passenger laws vary from state to state, but federal guidelines recommend four steps (infant seat to seat belt) for keeping children safe in a motor vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued these guidelines.
  • Infant

    An infant should be restrained in a rear-facing car seat until he or she is at least one year old or weighs at least 20 pounds.
  • Toddler

    At 20 pounds a toddler graduates to a forward-facing, five-point-harness car seat, in which he or she should remain until at least four years old or 40 pounds.
  • Child

    A belt-positioning booster seat should be used with your car's seat belt until your child is at least eight years old, 80 pounds, or 4 feet, 9 inches tall.
  • Seat Belt

    Once a child is old enough or big enough for the seat belt alone, the child should wear a seat belt every time the child rides in a vehicle. Also, it is recommended that children 12 or under not ride in the front seat of a car.
  • Age vs. Weight

    Although most laws give both an age and a weight for a child to move to the next step, parents are encouraged to use the weight limit as a more accurate determiner of when the child is ready.

    References & Resources