When used properly, car safety seats reduce the likelihood of death from an auto accident by 71 percent for infants under 1 year and by 54 percent for toddlers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes. Keeping your baby or tiny tot safe while in the car means following state laws that vary depending on age, weight and height.
Do Look Back
Babies and toddlers under 2 years old should ride in a
rear-facing car seat, in the back seat, advises the American Academy of
Pediatrics' 2014 guidelines. These seats typically handle babies from birth
until they weigh 22 to 35 pounds, the KidsHealth website notes. Another option
is the convertible car seat. Infants, toddlers and slightly older youngsters
use these seats until they are between 65 and 80 pounds. Unlike infant
carseats, the convertible safety seat is sized to also accommodate a toddler's
growing frame. When your child reaches the age of 2, you can turn the seat around,
converting it into the front-facing version.
Check Your State’s Laws
All states require infants and toddlers to sit in the back seat.
Though the AAP recommends using a rear-facing car seat for under-2s, your state
may not be quite as strict. For example, California only requires infants to
sit facing backwards until they are 1. If you're unsure as to what your state
requires, ask your child's pediatrician about state law. You are free to still
follow AAP recommendations, of course.
As of 2014, you may install your child's car seat using either
the lower anchors and tethers for children -- or LATCH -- system or with your
car's seatbelts. The AAP notes that both ways of installing a car seat are
equally safe for the child and acceptable. Follow the manufacturer's
instructions for correct installation.
Laws governing car seats include weight as well as age
guidelines. Given that not all infants and toddlers are the same size at the
same age, these rules help to ensure that your child is safely strapped in. For
example, the state of New Jersey requires all infants under 1 year who weigh
less than 20 pounds to sit rear facing. A 1-year-old in New Jersey who weighs
more than 20 pounds may sit front facing. On the other hand, a 15-month-old
toddler who still weighs 19 pounds must still sit rear facing.