What are the rules for car seats? At what age can my toddler be forward facing?

All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer.

Use a rear-facing seat until age 2 or more

Most convertible seats have limits that permit children to ride rear-facing for 2 or more years. As your child grows, you might have to switch from using a smaller rear-facing-only car seat to using a bigger rear-facing convertible car seat that can hold a larger child, first rear-facing then forward-facing. After you turn the seat forward, adjust the harness, make it more upright, and attach the top tether.

Why keep your child in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible? If you are in a front-end crash (the most common type of crash) a rear-facing car seat allows your child’s head, neck, and spine to move evenly into the seat, not away from it. It’s the best!

Moving from a rear-facing to forward-facing car seat

Children who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car seat should move to a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness and top tether. Use this seat for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed on the seat’s label.

If your child’s weight reaches the limit when using the lower attachments, you will need to switch from using lower attachments and top tether to using a seat belt with top tether.

Your child may need a forward-facing car seat with a harness that has a higher weight or height limit before moving to a booster seat. Not all kids are ready for the freedom of a booster seat.

When ready and after your child gets too big for the weight or height limits of the forward-facing car seat, put your child in a booster seat used with the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belt.

This information is from Safe Kids Worldwide. For more information on car seats, see the Safe Kids Ultimate Car Seat Guide.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Safe Kids Worldwide Safe Kids Worldwide is a nonprofit organization working to help families and communities keep kids safe from injuries.

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