Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Font Size
A
A
A

How to Keep Your Child Safe in a Car

Buying and installing a car seat for your baby can feel a lot like outfitting your auto for a trip to the moon. There are latches to anchor, belts and buckles to secure, weight limits to uphold.

Before your patience goes straight into orbit, read this easy-to-follow guide to car seats. Learn which car seat you need and how to install it without driving yourself crazy.

Choosing the Right Car Seat

Why do you even need a child safety seat? Because it's an essential part of car safety. Child seats save lives.

If your baby is securely strapped in a car seat, his or her risk of dying in a car accident goes down by 71%, according to the CDC.

Yet buying and installing a car seat can seem overwhelming. When you wander down the aisles of your local baby supercenter, the sheer number and variety of car seats can make you dizzy.

Don't get intimidated. You don't have to buy the most expensive safety seat with all the bells and whistles.

You just need to consider three things:

  • Your baby's age
  • Your baby's weight and height
  • Whether the car seat meets safety standards

Here's a quick guide from the CDC on how to choose a seat based on your child's age, weight, and height:

Birth to 2. Use a rear-facing seat. Your child's weight should be no higher than allowed on the seat's weight limit.

Age 2 to 4 AND no more than 40 pounds. Use a forward-facing child safety seat. 

Age 4 to 8 OR up to 4 feet 9 inches tall. Use a belt-positioning booster seat. Always keep kids in the back seat.

After age 8 AND/OR 4 feet 9 inches tall. Seat belts (without a booster seat) are OK. But your child should keep using a booster seat until adult seat belts fit properly. How can you know? Check the position of the lap belt and the shoulder belt on your child. The lap belt should be on the upper thighs -- not the stomach. The shoulder belt should be on the chest -- not the neck.

The CDC says all children younger than age 13 should ride in the back seat. That holds true if they're in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt. The reason: air bags can hurt or even kill young children riding in the front.

Experts recommend keeping babies under 2 in a rear-facing seat until they outgrow the car seat manufacturer's height and weight limit. A rear-facing car seat will protect your baby's delicate neck during a crash. A seat's weight limits correspond to the seat itself. Some seats can go up to 60+ pounds.

Every state has different laws on children's car seats. Some states will fine you $100 or more for failing to secure your child in the correct child seat.

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

What do you worry about most?