Multiple factors need to be considered when deciding whether your child should be rear-facing versus forward-facing; including seat type, your child’s height, and weight. When in doubt, always consult your child’s pediatrician to help determine the best fit.
Make sure to always follow your car seat manufacturer’s instructions for installing and choosing the correct car seat. If you are using an older car seat, check the expiration date to ensure it is still suitable for safe use. If possible, it is best to install car seats in the back seat of your vehicle. Use this guide during Child Passenger Safety Week to help find the right car seat for your child.
How to choose the right car seat for your child passenger
Rear-Facing Car Seat
There are 3 types of rear-facing car seats for your Child Passenger
- Rear-Facing only Car Seat – An infant car seat will be rear-facing only. Specifically designed for small babies and newborns which will usually need to be replaced within the first year of owning.
- Convertible Cart Seats – This type of car seat can convert from a rear-facing car seat to a front-facing car seat. Giving the car seat a longer life span and more versatility compared to an infant car seat.
- All-In-One-car seat – The most versatile of all the car seat choices, an all-in-one car seat can change as your child grows. Limiting the number of car seats, you need to purchase.
When To Use Rear-Facing for your Child Passenger
Generally used in the first few years of a child’s life until around 4 years old or until they reach 35lbs and 35ins (depending on car seat specifications). A rear facing car seat provides the highest safety rating and can have advantages vs other configurations at a child’s early age.
Forward-Facing Car Seat
There are two types of forward-facing car seats
- Convertible/All-In-One Cart Seats – Converting from a rear-facing car seat to a front-facing car seat. Giving the car seat a longer life span and more versatility compared to an infant car seat.
- Combination Car Seat – As the name suggests, this type of car seat can be transformed from a forward-facing car seat with a harness to a booster seat.
When To Use a Forward-Facing Car Seat
Commonly used between ages 2-7 years depending on what model car seat you have. The height and weight limits for these car seats tend to be between 40-65lbs. Your child needs to be in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until they reach the maximum height and weight rated for your specific car seat. Once that is reached it is time to move them to a booster seat.
Booster Seat for Child Passengers
There are 4 types of booster seats
- Booster seat with high back – Designed for proper placement of your child’s seat belt. The high back provides neck and head support.
- Backless Booster Seat – Similar to a high back booster seat but without the high back. No head or neck support which is preferred for vehicles that already have seats with high backs.
- Combination Car Seat – After the combination seat is used as a forward facing it can be used a booster seat.
- All-In-One-car seat – The booster seat configuration will be the final stage of an All-in-One car seat.
When To Use a Booster Seat
Normally used between ages 6-12 years, remembering that every child is different and booster seat recommendations vary by model and specified requirements. The ages where boosters can be used vary greatly. Continue to use a booster seat until your child reaches the maximum height and weight for their booster seat. Once they have reached that limit you can move them into using a standard seat belt. Make sure they know how to safely use a seat belt when the time comes.
A child can typically start using a seat belt if they have reached a height of 4ft 9in and are 8-12 years old. Every area has different laws and regulations. Make sure to review local regulations to confirm you are following their requirements.
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