QuickStart Guide to Infant and Child Car Seats - May 2017 Edition

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 24-May-2017

Child motor vehicle safety understandably causes huge consternation for parents across our country. There’s justification for strategic concern. Vehicular injuries are a leading cause of death and severe injury among the young. Many of the most terrible outcomes could be prevented by proper use of child car seats and booster seats.

When used correctly, these devices reduce the risk of death by up to 71 percent for infants, and 54 percent for toddlers. However, the CDC reports that approximately 46 percent of car and booster seats are misused in a way that reduces their effectiveness. Are you prepared? Here’s what you need to know.

Which Car Seat Is Right for My Child?

Government safety standards for car and booster seats haven’t changed much since the latest updates in 2011. The following basic guidelines reflect the government’s current recommendations. The NHTSA recommends keeping children in their prescribed seats for as long as possible before changing to the next level.

  • Infants (birth to 12 months)—use only a rear-facing car seat.
  • Age 1-3 years—use a rear-facing seat until they reach the seat’s height/weight limit, and then change to an age-appropriate forward-facing seat with harness/tether.
  • Age 4-7 years—use a forward-facing seat until they reach the seat’s height/weight limit, and then change to an age appropriate booster seat.
  • Age 8-12 years—keep the child in a booster seat for as long as possible, switching only to a seat belt when the child is large enough for the belt to cross the lap (not the stomach) and the harness to cross the chest (not the face or neck).


In addition to these guidelines, all children under 12 should ride in the back seat for their safety, regardless of which type of car seat (or lack thereof) is used.

Additional Safety Tips

  • Check state guidelines and regulations. Each state has specific requirements for car seat safety standards. Check to make sure the seat you choose fits these criteria.
  • Sign up for recall notices. Car seats are commonly recalled for safety issues. Register your car seat with the manufacturer to be notified of any recalls. The NHTSA also has a lookup system to check for current recalls.
  • Make sure you’re using the seat correctly. Many cities and states offer inspection locations that will check your car seat to ensure it is installed and used properly. has a locator page to help you find one.

For more information on this topic, check out our post on Car Seat Safety Rules that Parents Ignore.

Our Washington D.C. personal injury attorneys can help if you or your child has been injured in an accident. Call our office for more information.
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