The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children rear-face until they have outgrown the weight or height maximums of their rear-facing seat. In addition, many states have passed laws requiring children sit rear-facing until the age of 2. Other states have proposed the law but it has not yet been passed. Fortunately, many seats have higher rear-facing weight limits now to help keep children rear-facing as long as possible!
Children who have outgrown the weight or height limit of their rear-facing car seat should transition to a forward-facing seat with a harness. Keep your child in their forward-facing car seat with harness until they have outgrown the weight or height limit seat by the car seat manufacturer. Many forward-facing only seats offer the option to remove the harness once the child outgrows it and continue to use the seat as a booster with a seat belt.
Children may begin riding in a booster as early as 4 but the minimum recommended age is 5. Best practice is to keep the child using a harness as long as possible. Many car seats manufactured today have higher harness weight limits to enable growing children to remain in a harness longer before transitioning to a seat belt in the booster.
Booster seats help keep the child restrained safely until reaching 4'9" and can meet all the criteria to "5-step".
Once a child reaches 4'9" which is often between ages 8-12 and can pass the 5-step test, he or she can usually transition to a seat belt without the use of a booster. Always use a lap and shoulder seat belt for the best protection.
Once a child reaches the age of 13, he or she is allowed to sit in the front seat provided the seat belt fits appropriately. The back seat is always the safest location for children.
The BEST car seat is the one that fits the CHILD correctly, that fits the CAR correctly, and that YOU can install correctly every time!
This map is ever-changing as lobbying continues. Rear-facing until at least age 2 is required by the states in green and has been proposed in the blue states but has not yet passed. The yellow states do not have requirements to rear-face until at least age 2 yet. Please note this map can change frequently so always check with your state's laws.
There are hundreds of options of seats out there. Some of the most important things to consider when choosing a seat are the following: