Keep Child Passengers Safe

Mother driving car with daughter in booster seat

Whenever you’re on the road, make sure children age 12 and younger are always properly buckled in the back seat in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt—whichever is appropriate for their age, height, and weight.

Reduce Their Risk

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. In 2019, more than 600 children 12 and younger died in motor vehicle crashes, and more than 91,000 were injured. Of the children 12 and younger who died in a crash (for whom restraint use was known), 38% were not buckled up. Parents and caregivers can make a lifesaving difference by checking whether their children are properly buckled on every trip.

Data show that:

  • Car seat use reduces the risk for injury in crashes by 71–82% for children, when compared with seat belt use alone.
  • Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children age 4–8, when compared with seat belt use alone.
  • Seat belt use reduces the risk for death and serious injury by about half for older children and adults.
Know the Stages

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

  • Use a rear-facing car seat from birth until age 2–4.
    • Infants and toddlers should be buckled in a rear-facing car seat with a harness, in the back seat, until they reach the maximum weight or height limit of their car seat. This offers the best possible protection.
    • Check the car seat manual and labels on the car seat for weight and height limits.
    • Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat. Front passenger air bags can injure or kill young children in a crash.
  • After outgrowing the rear-facing car seat, use a forward-facing car seat until at least age 5.
    • When children outgrow their rear-facing car seats, they should be buckled in a forward-facing car seat with a harness, in the back seat. They should stay in the forward-facing car seat until they reach the maximum weight or height limit of this seat.
    • Check the car seat manual and labels on the car seat for weight and height limits.
  • After outgrowing the forward-facing car seat, use a booster seat until the seat belt fits properly.
    • When children outgrow their forward-facing car seat, they should be buckled in a belt-positioning booster seat with a seat belt, in the back seat, until the seat belt fits properly without a booster seat. A seat belt fits properly when the lap belt is across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt is across the center of the shoulder and chest (not on the neck/face or off the shoulder). This typically does not occur until children are age 9–12.
  • When the seat belt fits properly without a booster seat, use a seat belt on every trip.
    • Children no longer need to use a booster seat when the seat belt fits them properly. A seat belt fits properly when the lap belt is across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt is across the center of the shoulder and chest (not on the neck/face or off the shoulder).
    • Proper seat belt fit typically does not occur until children are age 9–12. Seat belt fit can vary by vehicle so check fit in all vehicles to make sure the child no longer needs to use a booster seat. It could be that a child might need a booster seat in one vehicle but not another.
    • Keep children properly buckled in the back seat through age 12 for the best possible protection.
Buckle Up Every Age, Every Trip
Baby in a rear-facing car seat

National Child Passenger Safety Week 2021 is September 19–25. Check to make sure your child’s seat is properly installed and fits for their age, height, and weight.

Install and use car seats and booster seats according to the car seat/booster seat manual. You can get help installing them from a certified child passenger safety technicianexternal icon. Find a child passenger safety technician near you.external icon

Buckle all children age 12 and younger in the back seat.

  • Buckle children in the middle seating position of the back seat when possible (using a lap and shoulder belt), because it is the safest position in the vehicle.
  • Air bags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an air bag.
  • Buckle children in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts on every trip–no matter how short the trip.
  • Set a good example and help protect everyone in the car by always using a seat belt.