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Child Passenger Safety

Parents putting their child in a safety seatMake sure the ones you love are safe and secure in the car—all the time, on every trip.

Reduce Their Risk

In 2012, more than 1,100 children ages 14 years and younger died in motor vehicle crashes, and more than 176,000 were injured. But parents and caregivers can make a lifesaving difference.

Whenever you're on the road, make sure your child passengers are buckled in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, or seat belts. The safest place for children of any age to ride is properly restrained in the back seat. Data show that:

  • In 2011, restraint use saved the lives of 263 children ages 4 years and younger. Car seats reduce the risk of death in car crashes by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4.
  • Booster seats reduce the risk for serious injury by 45% for children ages 4 to 8 years.

All children aged 12 and under should ride in the back seat. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag.

Cartoon of father and child in car seat

CDC launched the "Protect the Ones You Love" initiative to raise parents' awareness about the leading causes of child injury and how it can be prevented in the United States. Parents can play a life-saving role in protecting children from injuries. Information is available in English and Spanish. Learn more.

Father putting baby in car seat

Learn all you can do to keep your most precious cargo safe and locate a car seat inspection stationin your area.

Know the Stages

Parents and caregivers can:

Make sure children are properly buckled up in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, whichever is appropriate for their age, height and weight.

Know the stages:

  • Birth up to age 2 – Rear-facing car seat. For the best possible protection, infants and children should be buckled in a rear-facing car seat, in the back seat, until age 2 or when they reach the upper weight or height limits of their particular seat. Check the seat’s owner’s manual and/or labels on the seat for weight and height limits.
  • Age 2 up to at least age 5 – Forward-facing car seat. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats they should be buckled in a forward-facing car seat, in the back seat, until at least age 5 or when they reach the upper weight or height limit of their particular seat. Check the seat’s owner’s manual and/or labels on the seat for weight and height limits.
  • Age 5 up until seat belts fit properly – Booster seat. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seat (by reaching the upper height or weight limit of their seat), they should be buckled in a belt positioning booster seat until seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck). Remember to keep children properly buckled in the back seat for the best possible protection.
  • Once seat belts fit properly without a booster seat – Children no longer need to use a booster seat once seat belts fit them properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck). The recommended height for proper seat belt fit is 57 inches tall. For the best possible protection keep children properly buckled in the back seat.
    • Install and use car seats and booster seats according to the seat’s owner’s manual or get help installing them from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
  • Find a Child Passenger Safety Technician.
    • Buckle all children ages 12 and under in the back seat. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag.
    • Buckle children in the middle of the back seat when possible, because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.
    • Buckle children in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts on every trip, no matter how short.
    • Set a good example by always using your seat belt.
  • Page last reviewed: February 7, 2014
  • Page last updated: February 7, 2014
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