When Can You Forward Face a Car Seat?

Car seats are essential for every parent until their children attain the age and height where they are eligible to use the adult seat belt. A booster seat can be used as an alternative when a child is too big to fit into a car seat but too small for the adult seat belt. When can a baby face forward in a car seat is a concern that parents and caregivers have to address from the minute they set out to buy one.

infant car seat

Credit: Consumer Reports

Rear-facing car seats are safer than frontal facing ones because of the prevalence of forward crashes as compared to those that happen from the back. Also, a collision from the rear has lesser force since the two cars are traveling in the same direction.

Additionally, the distance between possible points of impact and the child are far apart. This makes rear-facing car seats safer than those that face the front.

Typically, rear-facing car seats are ideal for children at their infant and toddler stage. This aspect is essential and parents ought to pay attention to it. The transition from rear to forward-facing has to be done at an appropriate age, or as directed by the manufacturer of the car seat to minimize chances of injuring the baby.

Before the age of two, harnesses and the design of frontal facing seats may cause head, neck, and spinal injury to the child.

Transition to a forward-facing car seat has to be done when the child is of age or when their weight and height dictate that this action is necessary. To rule out the many misconceptions regarding rear-facing car seats, parents need understand the different types of car seats in the market.

Manufacturers in this business offer an array of options each with unique features. One should be able to know what they are looking for to buy the best. There are three types of car seats in the market. They are;

Rear-facing

The rear-facing car seat is the standard type needed for newborns until they attain a certain age. It ought to be fixed in the back seat of the car facing the back. Sometimes, people fit it in the front seat, but this move is not recommended. There are various kinds of rear-facing car seats, and one should acquire one that fits their needs and that of their kids. The assortment availed by manufacturers include;

Rear-facing only car seat – this design is small and comes with a carrying handle. A detachable base allows for it to be fitted on the seat of the car. If more than one car is used by the family, more bases can be bought. This car seat is only ideal for traveling. Any other use such as feeding or sleeping outside the vehicle is not recommended. Important to note is that, not all seats in this category have detachable bases. Some brands do not have this feature. It is vital to check this characteristic before buying a specific brand.

Convertible seat – this design comes with an array of options for caregivers. It allows for conversion from rear to forward-facing when the time is right. They are bigger than the rear-facing only seats but cannot be carried around because the base is non-detachable and it has no handles either. This type of car seats are ideal for travel only, and any other use is highly discouraged.

Three in one seatmodels that incorporate this design can be used in different ways. They can face the rear, front, or used as a booster. The main advantage of this type of car seat is that your child can use it for an extended period.

Before purchase, one should confirm that they fit in their car while facing the rear owing to their large size. Unfortunately this type of seat is limited to car use only as they do not come with bases that can be removed or handles to carry them around.

Booster – this type of car seat comes in handy when a child has outgrown the toddler seat but cannot use the adult seats in the car. It is used in a forward-facing position due to its bulk. It comes with a set of harnesses that can be used to secure the child in the seat. The car’s seat belt can also be used when using this type of car seat.

Forward Facing Car Seat Regulations

Other than instructions provided by car seat manufacturers regarding the use of their products, caregivers ought to ensure that they are within forward-facing car seat regulations (focus on USA). Most of the rules set for seats in this category are made by the federal government, but it does not end there. Individual states have added regulations that one must abide by. Some of the laws by state are;

Alabama

Booster seats are to be used up to when the child is six years

Convertible seats in forward-facing position or forward-facing seats are to be used until the child is at least forty pounds of five years of age.

A child passenger restraint system that meets outlined regulations must be used at all times when using the car until the child is six years of age.

Alaska

Children who are older than four years old but less than eight weighing more than twenty pounds but less than sixty-five and are under fifty-seven inches in height must be properly secured in a booster seat or any other type that has been approved by the federal government as an ideal child passenger restraint system.

If a child is older than four years old but under 8 years of age but goes beyond the tallness and mass requirements in the previous paragraph, they may be secured by a seatbelt.

Once the child attains the age of eight, if they do not exceed the weight and height requirements, it is up to the driver to decide whether it’s ideal to let the child ride in the seatbelt or to keep using another federally approved child safety device.

Arizona

All children who are under eight years of age and who are not more than four feet nine inches tall are to be restrained in a correctly installed child restraint system

The above are some of the laws that caregivers in the respective states ought to follow to the letter. Matters of age, height, and weight must be factored in when buying and using a car seat in all states.

Recommendations from sources on the wide web may not be in tandem with the regulations in one’s jurisdiction. It is, therefore, necessary to go through forward-facing car seat regulations in your locality before use. Other factors that will affect a parent’s choice of a car seat are;

  • Age of the child
  • Compatibility with your vehicle
  • Pricing
  • Lifestyle
  • Size of the child
  • Installation

Conclusion

Before acquiring a car seat, it is essential to consult a certified child passenger safety technician for guidelines on the minimum standards that one should meet.

For children with special transportation needs, the parent or caregiver should shop for a seat that is appropriate for their needs. For some, it may be necessary to request for customization.

Installation must be done with utmost care to cancel out malfunction risks. It is essential to read through the manual that comes with the seat to ensure proper installation. An inch test can also be done to confirm that the seat is securely in place.

What kind of foam is used in car seats? (there’s a few)

Car seats are made up of different components, including foam. Convenience and comfort are among the top priorities that one considers when buying a vehicle. The foam used in car seats is among elements that determine how comfortable a car is.

There are different types of form in the market and knowledge on the same will help one make an informed decision when buying a car seat. Child passenger restraint systems are also car seats made with foam.

This type of car seat serves a unique function hence; the foam used to make it is not the same as that used to make the others for adults in the automobile. The common types of foam used to make car seats are:

1. Open-cell foam

This type of foam is designed with open pores to facilitate the flow of air and wetness within a seat. The surface is bold and fizzed to offer comfort to the car users. An antimicrobial feature is a plus for this type of form as it controls the occurrence of mold.

2. Polyurethane foam

It comes in either high or medium density. Its structure is open cellular to enable the free flow of air and easy draining of water when it gets wet. Only the medium density variation has antimicrobial properties. It is advisable for one to add a layer of waterproof material before inserting it in a cushion cover.

3. Orthopedic foam

This variety of car seat foam is made using supportive gel material. It is designed to help alleviate back pain and reduce stress around the coccyx area.

4. Evlon foam

Durability and high density are among the top-notch features that Evlon offers to its users. It is available in different dimensions, each providing excellent support without too much hardness.

Comfort, durability, and good support are among the key elements that one ought to look out for when buying foam for their car seat. Ask your auto dealer about the material used to make your car seats when acquiring a new one. For child passengers who are still using the restraint system, the foam materials added into their seats includes:

5. EPS foam

Also known as Styrofoam, EPS is polystyrene material commonly used to make bicycle helmets and coolers, among other things. Its flexibility is relatively low; therefore it breaks easily. It has the ability to withstand pressure and different types of abuse, but it also tears easily. It should be handled with care.

6. EPP foam

The ellipsis stands for expanded polypropylene. It is an elastic form that can withstand high levels of pressure and violence. Its ability to recover from shocks and endure tear are among the top features that make this foam ideal for children car seats.

Conclusion

These two types of foam are energy-absorbing to minimize the impact of collision on a child. The chances and extent of injury are also reduced considerably. Before putting your money into a particular car seat, for adults or children you ought to know what material it is made of as well as the density.

How Long Can a Newborn be in a Car Seat? (2 Hour Rule)

Newborns face multiple risks when they are asleep and not lying flat on their backs on a comfortable surface. Due to the developing nature of their airwaves, spine, and other body parts, it is vital that they are kept in a suitable posture at all times.

At a given time, running errands and attending to other aspects of life necessitates that parents and caregivers move with their newborn from one place to another. When traveling, one question that many people ask themselves is how long a baby can stay in the car seat on long journeys?

infant car seat

Credit: Consumer Reports

It is vital for one to research on the different rules governing newborns in a car. For starters, it is a must for one to have a child passenger restraint system that is appropriate for the child. At the newborn stage, the rear-facing car seats are recommended and are mandatory.

To guarantee a newborns comfort and safety while riding in a car seat, the caregiver ought to understand the various rules that will keep the child safe. Some of the safety points that a parent or caregiver ought to consider when they have a newborn who they will drive around with are;

Buy the appropriate car seat

There are different types of car seats in the market. They are designed to be age, weight, and height specific. For newborns, the suitable car seat is the rear-facing models. Until the child attains a certain age, mass, or height, they are to be in a back-facing child restraint system during all times. One should ensure that the brand they opt for their child meets or exceeds the standards set by the various regulatory bodies in this sector.

If one is using a car seat that is not new, certain precautions must be undertaken to ensure that the child’s safety is assured. The first thing to ask the owner of the used car seat is how long it has been in use?

Check the expiration date of the seat as recommended by the manufacturer and when in doubt call them to confirm if it is ideal for your newborn or not — child seats with missing parts or those with signs of wear and tear are to be avoided.

Also, one has to sign the registration card that comes with the product and provide accurate information so that they are notified in case of a recall.

Install and position the car seat and baby correctly

A car seat must be installed well if one is to guarantee the safety of their child. The user manual that accompanies the product outlines the steps that one ought to take to ensure that the seat has been set up correctly. Other than the guidebook, parents and caregivers are expected to attend a safety class when practical demonstrations on how to set up a car seat are provided.

An expert can be consulted once the car seat has been installed to certify that it is in the correct position. The ideal spot to place an infant-only car seat is the middle of the back seat.

This rule can be altered if the car seat does not fit in this spot securely. The child restraint seat should, however, remain in the back seat. Not more than two point five centimeters of movement should be allowed in any direction.

Once the seat has been installed correctly, the child can be put in. Infant seats come with a five-point harness that must be tightly strapped over the baby. The straps and clips must lie flat on the baby for maximum safety. Also the baby should be in comfortable clothes that allow the straps in the crotch area to snap into place correctly. The baby should be covered over the secured straps and not under.

The infant car seat in use must be reclined at an angle set by the manufacturers to keep the baby’s head from flopping forward. Newborns have no control of their head and neck movements making this action necessary. The baby should always ride in a semi-reclined position to ensure that their airways are clear. Always use the angle indicators and adjusters to make sure that the baby is in the right place.

Follow the two-hour rule

Car seat companies recommend that a baby should only sit for two hours in a car seat within a twenty-four-hour timeframe. The semi-reclined position although recommended; is not ideal for a newborn baby.

Restricted airflow to the lungs of the baby may cause respiratory problems especially when they fall asleep while in the infant car seat. The baby’s developing spine will also strain and if the car seat is used regularly and for long hours it may lead to severe damage.

The 2-hour car seat rule age is not specified, but it should be followed until the baby is at a phase where they can sit upright and control their head and neck movement.

Avoid long journeys

Parents and caregivers are advised to avoid planning long trips until their baby is ready to withstand traveling for long hours. Other than long-distance travel, traffic in one’s city must be factored in to keep away from being stuck in one with a newborn baby in the car.

When long journeys are unavoidable, breaks should be scheduled in between hours to give the infant child a chance to relax before proceeding with the trip. Alternative means of transport that are fast should be considered before driving with a newborn baby.

Bottom line

Lie flat car seats are an alternative solution to driving around with a newborn. If one has a car that can fit this type of car seat, then they should get it instead of the regular infant restraint system.

It is also essential for one to consider that a child experiences breathing problems in just thirty minutes of being in the semi-reclined position. Regular checks must be done on the newborn for safety purposes. Another essential aspect that one needs to have in mind is that infant car seats should only be used in the vehicle.

How to tether a car seat without anchors(or a latch system)

Starting from September 2002 all automakers in US – have been federally mandated to include anchors in every manufactured vehicle as standard equipment.

But cars manufactured before September might lack anchors and there are many such cars still running on US streets which don’t have anchors or tethers pre installed in them. This raises the concern of how to tether car seat without anchor.

If you own a vintage or a more than 20 year old car – then the chances of them – not having these vital accessories increase. You must have not felt the need for anchors and tethers if previously you didn’t had any infant travelling along with you – but if recently you were required to travel with a car seat – than anchors and tethers become essential to tuck the kid’s safety seat.

This is one reason cars lack anchors. Another problem where even cars having anchors are useless to tuck car seats – is that all Latch systems are not created equal by the manufacturers. So even if your car has anchors – they are of no use! And you will have the same query – how to tether car seat without anchor.

Installing a car seat with a seat belt

In both of the above situations – a seat belt is often the best — or only — option when installing a car seat. And every car seat in US can be installed with a seat belt.

If you have child seat’s manual then follow the instructions in the “lap belt installation” heading. If you don’t have the manual or you are unable to understand (because generally these manuals are very lousy) then read below. We have provided below a step by step guide (with photographs) – which will help you install a car seat with a seat belt in any vehicle you own.

Put the seat belt in the automatic locking mode

In order to secure a child-safety seat using a seat belt – make sure that the seat belt is in Automatic Locking mode.

Seat belts have two modes – Emergency locking mode and an automatic locking mode. In Emergency Locking mode, the strap of the seat belt can be pulled freely. The strap gets locked only when the car abruptly slows or stops. The belt then gets into a tight, fixed position.

You have to switch the seat belt out of Emergency Locking mode and into Automatic Locking. You can switch between them by a switchable retractor which is fixed alongside a seat belt. Pull the belt freely until the strap webbing runs out. Put the slack back into the retractor. This will fix the strap in a fixed tight position.

Some vehicles have a button that switches between modes. If your car doesn’t have this you have to manually do it. Below are steps demonstrating how to switch from emergency locking mode to automatic locking mode.

Step 1

Find the seat belt path in your car seat. Seat belt path is a set of slots generally located near the latch connector strap path. You can look for it in your car seats’ manual too.

the first step in tethering a car seat

Step 2

Insert the seat belt strap into the car-seat belt path. Check for the appropriate slot wherein the seat belt gets properly buckled. Then pull the seat belt out of the retractor. You will hear a click when the belt is completely out. Do not pull the belt forcefully – so that it does not get stretched.

Step 3

After the belt is all the way out – insert the belt slack back into the retractor. Listen and feel for a ratcheting motion while you feed the slack back. Refer your car owner’s manual if you find switching between the modes difficult.

Step 4

Now pull up on the seat belt strap. Insert it in as far as it will go until the strap is completely tight and fixed. And you are done!

Remember to fix the seat belt strap as tight as possible so that the seat belt doesn’t move at all if a collision or a crash occurs. The strap will hold the car seat in place like a Latch connector does.

Step 5

Small kids require forward facing car seat. If you have to install a forward-facing car seat, then connect the tether strap to the vehicle’s top tether anchor too.

Just because you’re not using Latch to install the car seat doesn’t mean you can skip the tether anchor connection. Using the tether anchor lessens your child’s risk of head and neck injuries in a crash.

Note – Fastening the car seat with a seat belt should never be done with a belt-positioning booster. Boosters should only be buckled in – using the car’s default, emergency mode.

If you have old cars then you might experience retractor fit issue. The car’s seat belt retractor will not go into Automatic Locking mode.

For this you will need to lock the seat belt strap using the buckle’s latch-plate. This is the section of the buckle that holds the buckle clip to the strap. Lock it so that the buckle doesn’t slide along the webbing and remove the slack from the seat belt. Look in the owner’s manual for further assistance.

If this is not helping you then you will need a belt shortening clip. A belt shortening clip is a small metal clip that allows you to take out the seat belts’ slack.

You can find it in near-by garages or contact your local technician. He will be able to provide you one.

Why do you need a tether?

The top tether helps limit the top excursion of the head – that is to limit the movement of your head in a forward direction – during a collision or a crash.

Without a top tether the head will move 4 – 6 inches forward, and has a chance to collide with the back of the car seat of the first row – if the safety seat is in the second row resulting in severe head injuries.

If the safety seat is placed in the first row – and is without a tether – than the chances of the head colliding with the interior of the car increases, which can result in traumatic brain injuries.

So it is always advisable to use a top tether, whether you are using latch system or a seat belt to install the safety seat.

Now to the question – how to tether car seat without an anchor?

Retrofitting cars with anchors and tethers

Another option to the above query – how to tether a car seat without anchor is to retrofit your car with lower anchors and tether anchors if your car doesn’t have one.

This is not a general solution because you can retrofit tethers and anchors in certain specific car brands and in their certain models only.

Lower Anchors

Only Audi and Volkswagen allow retrofitting of lower anchors. And before you search whether it is available for your car or not – keep in your notes that both the brands charge you for doing so. Free servicing is discontinued.

Audi – In Audi

– For model years 1999 and up in A4, A6, A8 and S8 Audi will install a latch system – which has both upper and lower anchors.

– For model years 2001 and up – Audi will do the same in All-road Quattro.

– Retrofitting of tethers is also available for 1993 – 1999 Audis.

Volkswagen – In Volkswagen

– For model years 1999 – 2002 Volkswagen will install latch system – having upper and lower anchors for Passat Models.

– Retrofitting of tethers is also available for 1993 – 1999 Volkswagen vehicles.

Tethers

Ford, Chrysler and GM generally retrofit one tether anchor in their vehicles – not having tether anchors factory installed assuming that the vehicle can be retrofitted. And the best part is that they do this for free.

If you have a 2001 or a newer model – which has tether anchors in some positions and not all positions that retrofitting in not an option for the neglected positions.

If you have a 1989 – 1999 car model – then tether anchors can be added to these. Most of these vehicles come with pre drilled holes – bolted by a nut. Tethering is simple – you just have to unbolt the nut – fit the tether (the one you purchased) and screw in the nut back in the hole.

Remember – Regardless of how you tether kids’ car seat, it is important to make sure that car seat should not move more than an inch side-to-side.

If your car seat is installed incorrectly, it will move around in the vehicles seat. This will increase the risk of injury in a crash.

When can kids sit in the front seat? (State by state)

Seating kids in the front seat is very risky. Front row is the most inappropriate seating option for kids, even if you are using safety seats.

The second serious issue is that air-bags harm kids in accidents. They are meant to protect the adults and not the children.

Air bags are designed to protect adults at least 5 feet tall and weighing around 150 pounds. Kids don’t reach these limits and so even if he is protected by a buckle the airbag is going to harm him.

An airbag deploys rapidly, within 1/20th of a second at a speed of 200 miles per hour. So if the kid gets hit by even the softest material at this speed he/she is going to get hurt.

And for all these reasons American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children ages 13 and under should always be seated in the back seat for safety and they should either be buckled up or must be seated in a safety seat.

Below is a guide showing – the safest sitting room in a vehicle for your kids.

Where is the safest place for your child to sit?

Middle Rear Seat

The safest sitting area in any vehicle is the middle of the second row. It is the least impact zone in any collision or crash.

In most of the cars, manufacturers leave an open area between the first and the second row. So if the kid’s safety seat is placed there, during a collision or a crash, chances of bumping on the first row seats are almost diminished. Secondly the middle rear seat is farthest from the side – which decreases the chance of bumps with other interiors of the car.

If you have a big vehicle which has 3 rows of seats or even a middle sized car having 2 rows of seats – then place the safety seat on the middle of the second row. Do not place the safety seat in the middle of the third row, because it is not the safest. Mostly there is no open area between third and second row seats.

Rear seat behind the driver

The second favorable position (after the middle rear seat) for seating a kid is the rear seat behind the driver. Although it is near to the side door, it increases the chance of the kid getting out instantly in a collision.

It also increases the chances of the driver getting out of the car and protecting the kid as soon as possible in any crash, because the driver is the nearest to this seat.

Rear seat behind the front passenger

Some suggest that this seat is safer than the rear seat behind the driver, because the victim of any accident can get out sooner, but according to us – it remains on the third position. The reason is that the rear seat behind the driver also gives the passenger the same safety standard and it is also the nearest spot for the driver to reach.

Front Passenger Seat

when can kids sit in the front passenger seat?

Seating your kid in the front passenger seat is never advisable – whatever the conditions may be. In fact it is illegal in many of the states in USA. There are some reasons for this:

Front passenger seat is very near to a car’s shield glass and its dashboard. In a collision if the passenger crashes with the glass or the dashboard then it can be fatal and not just injurious.

The seat is very near to the side door of the car, which is mostly hard toughened solid. Collision with the sides can lead to severe injuries,

This seat comes with an active passenger airbag meant to protect adults sitting there and if the airbag goes off, it will hit the baby seat and fling it forward with considerable force. Children who sit in the front seat before they’re larger in size are at risk for head injuries due to the impact of the airbag or the airbag’s ability to lift them off the seat and hit the top of the car.

Remember – Seating a child in front of an airbag is illegal.

However if the conditions demand no other option than to seat the kid in the front seat, for example if the kid needs constant monitoring due to health reasons, or if the car has only a single row of seat – then make sure

  • You get a valid pass to do so,
  • You deactivate airbag,
  • And position the seat as far as possible from the front glass and the car’s dashboard.

When can kids sit in the front seat: State laws

Alaska

If a child is less than one year old or weighs less than 20 lbs, than he must be seated in a rear-facing car seat. The seat must be federally approved.

After one year till 5 years the child should be seated in a child restraint – which should be federally approved, but only if the weight is more than 20 lbs.

If a child is more than 4 years old but not yet 8 years old and exceeds 65 lbs and is 57 inches tall then he may ride in a seatbelt.

If the child is 8 years old, but does not exceed the height and weight requirements, the driver may decide whether it’s appropriate to let the child ride in the seatbelt or continue using another federally approved child safety device.

(SEC. 2. AS 28.05.095)

Arizona

Children under eight years of age should be seated in a correctly installed child restraint system – if their height is less than four feet nine inches.

However if child restraint systems cannot be installed for all the kids due to lack of room in the vehicle – than at least one child (the smallest) must be in a proper restraint system.

(ARS 28-907)

Arkansas

In Arkansas the law requires children less than 15 years of age to be seated in a child passenger restraint system.

However the law also mentions that children weighing 60 pounds and more and at least 6 years of age up to 15 can be secured by a safety belt.

The age group in this state is lower the other states age group. After 6 you can seat you kid in the front seat provided the weight is appropriate – as required by the law.

(ARKANSAS CODE 27-34-104)

California

Children less than two years of age should be seated in a rear-facing child restraint system in a rear seat.

Children under the age of 8 but have exceeded 4′ 9″ height shall not need a restraint system and a safety belt will be enough – but still they cannot sit in the front seat.

Only after 8 years of age a child can sit in the front seat.

(SECTION 27360 – 27368 OF THE VEHICLE CODE OF CALIFORNIA)

Colorado

Children below one year of age weighing less than 20 pounds should be positioned in a rear-facing child restraint system in the rear seats.

Till four years and 40 pounds he can be seated in a rear-facing or forward-facing child restraint system.

After eight years he can be secured by a safety belt and will not need a restraint system.

In Colorado the children seating laws are very strict for the drivers too which means a driver can be pulled over and ticketed for any violation in child seating laws.

(COLORADO REVISED STATUE 42-4-236)

Connecticut

Children below two years or 30 pounds must remain in a rear-facing child restraint. The law specifies the harness system too – which should be a 5-point harness and nothing less.

Till 5 years and 40 pounds they can be seated in a rear-facing or forward-facing child restraint with a 5-point harness. They can be seated in a booster seat too if the seat fits the required specifications.

A rear facing car seat shall not be used in the front seat of a vehicle.

After 8 years and 60 pounds he can be secured by a seat belt.

(SEC. 14-100A (D) (1))

Delaware

All children above 8 years of age and weighing 65 lbs should be properly secured by a seat belt. They can only sit in the rear sit until they reach 12 years of age or exceeds 65 inches in height.

(TITLE 21 SECTION 4803)

Florida

Children below 3 years must be seated in a child restraint system which should be federally approved. The law also required the seat to be crash tested.

An integrated child seat and a booster seat can be used once the child crosses 3 years.

(316.613)

Georgia

Children below eight years of age shall be properly restrained in a child passenger restraining system. The system must be approved by the United States Department of Transportation under provisions of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.

The law applies to private vehicles other than a taxicab or a public transit vehicle.

Below eight years a child cannot be seated in a front seat. If the rear seats are occupied or because of any special circumstances if someone needs to place the child in front seat than he can do only by installing a safety seat in the front seat.

Note – If the child needs to be placed in front seat because of some medical condition then a written statement from a physician is required.

Before 8 years if the child reaches 4’9″ he or she can be secured in a seat belt.

(O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76)

Hawaii

Children below four years should be seated in a restraint system which should fulfill the federal child safety seat requirements.

Above 4 years till 8 years you can also use a booster seat that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards.

If the child is 4 foot 9 inches tall or more than 40 pounds than he can be secured in a seat belt but he can only sit in a rear seat and not on the front seat.

(HRS SECTION 291-11.5)

Idaho

Children below 6 must necessarily be placed in a child safety restraint system – which should be according to the federal safety standards.

In no condition the child is allowed to sit in the front. Even if all vehicles seat belts are in use then the unrestrained child must be in the rear seat of the vehicle.

And even if the child needs nursing or any other physiological need, then also he should be seated in the rear seat.

(TITLE 49 CHAP 6 SECTION 49-672)

Illinois

Children below 8 years shall be secured in a child restraint system. If the child is travelling without parents then it’s parent’s responsibility to provide for an appropriate restraint system.

Above 40 pounds children can be seated with a lap-only belt if there is not a lap-shoulder belt available, but they are not allowed to seat in front. They can only be seated in the rear seats.

(625 ILCS 25/4 CHILD PASSENGER PROTECTION ACT)

Indiana

Children below 8 years should be seated in a restraint system and cannot sit in the front. After 8 – till 16 they can be secured using a vehicle’s seat belt.

(IC 9-19-11)

Iowa

Children below 1 year, weighing less than 20 lbs should be seated in a rear-facing child restraint system.

Till 6 years he or she must be secured in a child restraint system and the rear facing clause is overlooked after one year.

After 6 he or she can be secured by a safety belt or safety harness. This goes till he/she is 18 years of age.

(IOWA CODE 321.446)

Kansas

Children until the age of four should be seated in a restraining system that meets or exceeds FMVSS 213.

Till the age of 8 they need be places in some kind of safety seat. After 8 they can be secured in a vehicle’s seat belt.

(KSA 8-1343)

Kentucky

Children below 40 inches of height are necessarily required to be secured in a child restraint system which meets FMVSS 213.

Children between 40 and 57 inches tall can use a child booster seat.

(KRS 189.125)

Louisiana

Children below one year of age or weighing less than twenty pounds shall be seated in a rear-facing child safety seat.

Above one year till four years shall be restrained in a forward-facing child safety seat. The minimum weight should be 20 lbs and the maximum 40 lbs.

From 4 to 6 – and up to 60 lbs of weight booster seats can be used.

Children below 6 years or less than 60 lbs. must use a child restraint system.

After 6 years he is allowed to use the safety belt. The belt should be properly placed covering the shoulders and the whole of the body.

Note – If a child because of his age or weight can be placed in more than one category then he should be placed in the more protective category.

(RS 32:295)

Maine

Children below 40 lbs. of weight must use a child safety seat.

Above 40 lbs., till 80 lbs. he can ride in a federally approved child restraint system.

After 8 years till 18 years old (if they are more than 4 feet 9 inches in height) they can use a vehicle seat belt

Children are not allowed to use the front seat if they weigh less than 100 lbs and are below 12.

(MRS 2081)

Maryland

Children under the age of 8 years in a vehicle shall be secured in a child safety seat unless the child is 4 feet, 9 inches tall or taller.

(22–412.2)

Massachussetts

Children below 8 and less than 56 inches of height shall be secured by a child passenger restraint.

The safety restraint system shall be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and also needs to be properly fastened.

(CHAPTER90/SECTION7AA)

Michigan

Children below 4 years of age shall be seated in a child restraint system that meets the standards prescribed in 49 CFR 571.213 (aka FMVSS 213).

They can only be seated in the rear seat. However if the vehicle does not have a rear seat or if all available rear seats are occupied by children less than 4 years of age, then he/she may be allowed in the front seat which has a proper restraint system. The airbags should be deactivated.

Children between 4 and 8 years and less than 4 feet, 9 inches must also be necessarily placed in a child restraint system.

(SECTION 257.710D AND SECTION 257.710E(3B))

Minnesota

Children below 8 years and below 4’9″must ride in a child passenger restraint system.

The Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety writes, “This law is a minimum safety standard and does not reflect best practices for properly securing children within vehicles.

The vehicle can be stopped if any illegal activity is suspected.

(169.685-SUBD. 5)

Mississippi

Children below 4 years are required to ride in a properly-fitting child restraint system.

Children above 4 and till 7 and who measure less than 4’9″ or weigh less than 65 pounds can use a booster seat.

(MCA 63-7-301)

Missouri

Children less than four years of age shall be secured in a child passenger restraint system. This clause is regardless of weight of the child.

For the weight the clause states that all children weighing less than forty pounds shall be secured in a child passenger restraint system. This clause is regardless of age.

Children can be seated in a booster seat if they are at least four years of age, and weigh at least forty pounds and not more than eighty pounds, and who are also less than four feet nine inches tall. They should also not be more than 8 years of age.

A safety belt comes in use when the children are at least eighty pounds or more than four feet nine inches in height.

(RSMO 307.179)

Montana

Children below 6 years who weigh less than 60 pounds must be must be seated in a child safety restraint system.

(61-9-420)

Nebraska

Children up to two years of age shall use a rear-facing child passenger restraint system.

Children up to 8 years shall be seated using a child passenger restraint system which meets FMVSS 213 standards.

They can only be seated in a rear seat and are not allowed in front seats.

(60-6,267)

Nevada

Children below 6 years and weighing less than 60 pounds shall use a child restraint system approved by the NHTSA and should be according to the federal laws.

(NRS 484B.157)

New Hampshire

Children below 7 years or under 57 inches shall use a child restraint system which should be federally approved.

(RSA 265:107-A)

New Jersey

The general rule is that children should travel in the rear seat of the vehicle and not in the front.

Children below 2 years weighing less than 30 pounds shall be secured in a child restraint system having a 5-point harness. They should be seated rear facing.

The same is the requirement for children below 4 weighing less than 40 pounds with the only difference being that the children can be seated rear facing and forward facing.

From 4 – 8 years children can use booster seats.

And after they complete 8 years and are 57 inches tall or more than they can be secured by safety belts.

(NJSA 39:3-76.2A)

New Mexico

Children should never be seated in the front seat. If there is no rear seat then the front seat airbag must be deactivated.

Children below 1 year shall be seated in a rear-facing child passenger restraint device.

Children above 1 to 4 years of age weighing less than 40 pounds shall be seated in a passenger restraint device but the rear facing clause in omitted here.

Children above 4 to 6 years weighing less than 60 pounds can use booster seats.

Children above 6 to 12 years can use a seat belt. But before getting into a front seat or sitting with a seat belt they need to pass a 5 step test.

(66-7-369)

New York

All children below 4 years shall use a specifically designed seat which meets FMVSS 213 and it should be fixed permanently or fastened by a seat belt.

Children below 2 years shall be secured in a child restraint system. They should be seated rear facing.

Children below 4 years weighing more than 40 pounds must be must be seated in a child restraint system which has a lap-shoulder belt or a lap-only belt.

Children above 8 years till 16 years can use a lap-shoulder belt.

Generally all safety restraint seats are not a necessity in public transport vehicles but children under the age of four in this particular state – must be restrained in a federally approved car seat while riding on a school bus.

(SECTION 1229-C(1)) (VAT ART 33 SECTION 1229-C)

North Carolina

North Carolina is a little liberal in its child seating policies.

Children below 5 years weighing 40 pounds must be seated in a child restraint system and should be placed in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Children below 8 years and between 40 and 80 pounds can be restrained by a properly fitted lap-only belt if a lap and shoulder belt in the restraint system is not available.

(G.S. 20-137.1)

North Dakota

All children below 8 years shall be seated in a passenger restraint device.

A child can use seat belt if he/she is at least 57 inches tall (4′ 9″) – even if he is younger than 8 years.

After 8 till 17 children are free to use seat belts.

(CODE CHAPTER 39-21-41.2)

Ohio

Children below 4 years weighing less than 40 pounds must be seated in a child restraint system.

From 4 years till 8 years the booster seat option becomes open for children.

Children from 8 to 15 years should use a child restraint system or an Occupant Restraining Device.

An Occupant Restraining Device is defined as seat safety belt, shoulder belt, harness, or other safety device for restraining a person that satisfies the minimum the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

(4511.81) and (4513.263)

Oklahoma

Children below 2 years of age must use a rear-facing child passenger restraint system.

Children above 2 years and below 4 years must be secured in a child passenger restraint system and the rear facing clause is omitted here.

Booster seats become an option for children from 4 to 8 years who are less than 4’9”.

Children who are 8 or older or taller than 4’9” can use a seat belt.

(47.11-1112)

Oregon

Children below 2 years should be seated in a child restraint system and should be rear facing.

If the child crosses two years but is still weighing less than 20 pounds, then also the seating option remains the same.

Children weighing 40 pounds should be properly seated in the restraint system as per the regulations of Department of Transportation under ORS 815.055

Children weighing more than 40 pounds and are 4’9″ are eligible for a safety belt.

Children who are 8 years of age or are taller than 4’9″ can also use a safety belt or a safety harness.

Pennsylvania

Children below 2 years should be seated in a child restraint system and should be rear facing.

Children above 2 years and below 4 years must be secured in a child passenger restraint system and the rear facing clause is omitted here.

Booster seats and even seat belts become an option for children from 4 to 8 years who are less than 4’9”.

Children who are 8 or older or taller than 4’9” can use a seat belt.

The above discussed laws are highly summarized. You can get further details about car seat and front seat laws in Pennsylvania by clicking on the link below.

(VEHICLE CODE, 75 PA.C.S. 4581)

Rhode Island

Children below 2 years and weighing less than 30 pounds should be seated in a child restraint system and should be rear facing. The restraint system should be approved by FMVSS 213.

If the children have outgrown their size and weight than they should be seated in a front facing restraint seat.

Booster seats and even seat belts and a shoulder harness become an option for children from 4 to 8 years who are more than 57 inches in height.

Children who are 8 or older (till 18) can use a seat belt and/or shoulder harness system.

(SECTION 31-22-22)

South Carolina

Children below 2 years and weighing less than 30 pounds should be seated in a child restraint system and should be rear facing. The restraint system should be in accordance with the federal standards.

From 2 to 4 years booster seats can be opted but the children should be seated in rear seat of the vehicle with a lap-shoulder belt.

Booster seats and even seat belts and a shoulder harness become an option for children from 4 to 8 years who are more than 57 inches in height. Seat belts should be fastened according to the following norms:

the lap belt fits across the child’s thighs and hips and not across the abdomen;

the shoulder belt crosses the center of the child’s chest and not the neck; and

the child is able to sit with his back straight against the vehicle seat back cushion with his knees bent over the vehicle’s seat edge without slouching.

Children who are 8 or older (till 18) can use a seat belt and/or shoulder harness system.

(TITLE 56 CHAPTER 5 ARTICLE 47 SECTION 56-5-6410)

South Dakota

South Dakota has opted very liberal policies for children safety and seating options.

Children just below 5 years of age weighing at least 40 pounds shall be properly secured in a federally approved child restraint system. Generally the laws in other states opt for minimum 8 years.

After 5 years the children have an option to use the safety belt.

Children this small generally don’t fit safely in a car’s seat belt. The belt is an ideal option for children above 8 years to 12 years and having a minimum of 4’9″ height. The laws of South Dakota do not mean that this is the best protective measure for the children.

(32-37-1)

Tennessee

Children below 1 year or weighing less than 20 pounds should be seated in a child restraint system and should be rear facing.

Children above 1 year till 3 years must be secured in a child passenger restraint system in a forward-facing position in the rear seat.

Booster seats and even seat belts become an option for children from 4 to 8 years who are less than 4’9”. Although the seating in the rear seat clause still remains at this age and height.

Children who are 8 or older or taller than 4’9” can use a seat belt.

(T.C.A. 55-9-602)

Texas

Texas State is – any child below 8 years of age but at least four feet and nine inches in height, can use a seat belt.

(SEC. 545.412)

Utah

Children below 8 years shall be properly restrained in a child restraint system.

Additional to the above general rule there is an exception – Children below 8 are not required to be in a child restraint if they are at least 57 inches tall. At that point, they can use a lap-shoulder belt.

(TITLE 41 CHAPTER 6A SECTION 1803)

Vermont

Children below 1 year or weighing less than 20 pounds should be seated in a child restraint system and should be rear facing which shall not be installed in front of an active air bag.

Children above 1 year till 8 years must be secured in a child passenger restraint system.

Safety belt system becomes open for children from 8 to 18 years.

(23 V.S.A. § 1258)

Virginia

Children below 8 years shall be properly restrained in a child restraint system.

Children below 2 years should be seated in a child restraint system and should be rear facing.

Rear-facing child restraint devices must be placed in the back seat of a vehicle. In the event the vehicle does not have a back seat, the child restraint device may be placed in the front passenger seat only if the vehicle is either not equipped with a passenger side airbag or the passenger side airbag has been deactivated.

Children can no longer ride unrestrained in the rear cargo area of vehicles.

(CODE OF VIRGINIA ARTICLE 13 – SECTION 46.2)

Washington

Children below 8 years or below 4’9″ of height must ride in a child restraint which complies with FMVSS 213. After the required age or height (whichever comes first) they can use safety belt as to secure themselves. The belt should be properly adjusted and fastened around the child’s body.

Till 13 years of age children are not allowed to sit in the front. After 13 they can do so.

(RCW 46.61.687)

Washington, D.C.

In Washington D.C. the rules are on the strict side because of heavy traffic and dense population.

Children below 16 years are required to be properly restrained in an approved child safety restraint system or a seat belt.

Children below 2 years weighing less than 40 pounds or having a height of 40 inches must use a rear-facing child restraint seat.

Children below 8 years can use an installed infant, convertible (toddler) or booster child safety seat. Note – The booster seat shall only be used with both a lap and shoulder belt.

(DC CODE SECTION 50-1703)

West Virginia

The general rules in West Virginia are:

Children below eight years shall be properly secured in a child passenger safety device system.

Children below eight years and at least four feet nine inches tall shall be sufficiently secured by the vehicle’s seat belt.

(17C-15-46)

Wisconsin

Children below 1 year or weighing less than 20 pounds should be seated in a child restraint system and should be rear facing. The restraint system should be positioned in the back seat of a vehicle, if the vehicle has a back seat.

Children above 1 year till 4 years must be secured in a child passenger restraint system in a forward-facing position in the rear seat. The restraint system should be positioned in the back seat of a vehicle, if the vehicle has a back seat.

Booster seats and even seat belts become an option for children from 4 to 8 years who are more than 57 inches tall and weigh more than 40 pounds but less than 80 pounds.

Children who are 8 or older or taller than 4’9” can use a seat belt.

(CHAPTER 347.48.4)

Wyoming

Children below 8 years and younger must be properly secured in a child safety restraint system in the rear seat.

If all available rear seats are occupied by children or if there is no rear seat, then a child less than 8 years of age may be positioned in the child restraint system in the front seat, including a rear-facing child restraint system if the front passenger air bag is deactivated.

A seat belt is also an option for children below 8 years provided the lap and shoulder belt fits properly across the collarbone, chest and hips of the child.

The belt does not pose any danger to the neck, face or abdominal area of the child in the event of a crash or sudden stop.

(31-5-1303)

General Guidelines for Kids regarding where to sit in vehicles

Before we look at the laws state by state – here are some general age limits and seating options which are applicable in most of the states.

If you want the specific car seat laws for kids for your state then scroll down.

The following are some general guidelines:

Till Age 2

Children from birth to age 2 and till 40 pounds of weight should generally be seated in rear facing car seat.

A rear facing car seat provides maximum cushion to the neck and spinal cord of children.

2 to 8 (or older)

After 2 till 8 children should be seated in a forward facing car seat. Usually, the maximum weight limit is between 40 and 65 pounds.

A forward facing car sear minimizes the forward movement in crashes and mishaps.

8 to 12

A belt positioning booster seat becomes an option for ages 8 to 12. The height limit is 4 feet, 9 inches.

A booster seat ensures the seat belt fits over the strongest parts of a child’s body and positions the body at the safest angle and height.

13 or more

After 13 the front seat option is available for the kids. Teenagers can ride in the front seat but seat belt is a necessity. This is generally a law for every state.

State Laws for Childs seating positions

USA has strict laws about car seats, especially for safety seats for kids and the positioning of the safety seats. All states have different laws, or at least some terms and conditions vary. Different laws in different states are a confusing issue specially when travelling or switching between states.

Keeping this in mind we have compiled a complete list about the laws of 50 US states on car seats and when can kids sit in the front seat. The section or the article which contains the specific law is mentioned in the end of the law. We check and update these laws according to the authority updates once every year, so that you can be always up to date.

These laws don’t mean that they provide the best safety measures. The laws are made keeping the tolerance and acceptability of the general public. Some believe that working according to the laws is the safest step for the kids – but this is not true. In fact occupant restraint laws should be considered as the minimum standards required so that you don’t get a ticket.

Some important Notes before we look state by state laws:

Child Restraint System or A Restraint System

A “Child Restraint System” or a “Restraint System” is a specifically designed seating system, including a belt positioning seat (or booster seat) that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards — this should be indicated somewhere on the seat itself.

The restraint system should be federally approved, and must be appropriate for the size and weight of the child and should be installed within and attached safely and securely to the motor vehicle in accordance with the instructions for installation and attachment provided by the manufacturer of the child restraint system.

Safety Belt is not a restraint system

A vehicle’s safety belt is not defined as a child restraint system. Safety belts are not designed for children under 4’9″ and, therefore, do not protect young children.

However a safety belt or safety harness should be positioned low across the thighs and the shoulder belt should be positioned over the collarbone and away from the neck.

Public Transports are not liable to install safety seats

Taxis and public transportation buses are exempt from occupant restraint law. However, it is recommended, especially in taxis, to use an appropriate child restraint.

Federally Approved

This means the car seat meets the federals standards set in FMVSS 213. Car seat manufacturers self-certify that the car seat meets federal standards by crash testing the child restraint to ensure it meets certain crash criteria.

“And/Or” 

If the law says “and” this means the child needs to meet both (or all) criteria set in the law. “Or” means the child can meet one criteria or the other.

The bottom line

Even low-impact crashes leave serious marks and result in serious injuries to adults seated in front seat. So if you are travelling with small kids never seat them in the front seat – until they reach the required age, weight and height limits.

Many local fire departments, hospitals, and other community organizations offer car seat installation and inspection stations. Parents can find these by visiting or calling the following resources:

Call 1-866-SEATCHECK (866-732-8243)

You can also visit SeatCheck.org from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to receive safety updates.

Ride Safe and Enjoy with Your Kids.