Safe Kids Car Seat Program

Child Health Advocacy and Kids' Safety

Safe Kids Car Seat Program

The Safe Kids Car Seat Program is the largest, most comprehensive program of the National Safe Kids Campaign, involving more than 300 state and local coalitions dedicated to educating families about child passenger safety.

They're Not Fine Until They're 4'9"

Safe Kids Buckle Up says a child's height is the correct way to determine seat belt fit.

Take the 5 Step Test (pdf) to see if your child needs a booster seat.

Keeping Kids Safe in Vehicles

Go to the Car Seats, Boosters and Seat Belt Safety on the website for comprehensive information about figuring out the safest way for each member of the family to ride.

And download the NHTSA's car seat recommendations for children:

Safe Kids Madison: NHTSA car seat recommendations

Download the NHTSA recommendations (pdf)

En Español (pdf)

Which is the best child safety seat model for my child?

All child safety seats must meet federal performance standards. They should bear labels that state they meet these standards. This ensures that all currently manufactured child safety seats are safe when used according to both the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions. When choosing a specific model, parents and caregivers should evaluate it on three levels:

  • Does it fit the child?
    Check the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that your child is within the allowable weight and height ranges for a specific seat and meets the recommended age/developmental characteristics for a specific type of device.
  • Does it fit the vehicle?
    Not all child safety seats can be correctly installed in all seating positions of all vehicles. It is important to read both the child safety seat and vehicle instructions and to try installing the seat in your vehicle(s). In general, a correctly installed child safety seat should not move more than one inch side-to-side or forward when pulled at the safety belt path.
  • Will you use it consistently and correctly?
    Child safety seats vary in design and features. It is very important to choose one that you and your child are comfortable with and that you can correctly install and adjust every time you drive.

View our car seat recommendations (pdf)

At what age and weight should I turn my infant around to face forward?

Children should ride in rear-facing child safety seats as long as possible. At a minimum, they should be at least 12 months old AND weigh at least 20 pounds before they face the front of the vehicle. Until that time, their bones and ligaments are not developed enough to withstand forward-facing crash forces.

The rear-facing position reduces the risk of spinal cord injury in a frontal collision, since the safety seat’s shell supports the neck and spreads crash forces across the entire back. Most infant-only seats have a limit of 20 or 22 pounds, but most current convertible safety seats have rear-facing limits of 30 pounds or more. They provide better protection for children beyond their first birthdays. Most current convertible safety seats have rear-facing weight limits of 30 pounds or more.

Always check labeling for specific weight and height ranges. Read both the child safety seat instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual for information about correct use and installation of your child safety seat.