Child Safety Seats: FAQs

Q.  At what age can I take my child out of his/her child safety seat?

According to New York State law, your child must remain secured in a federally-approved child restraint device up to the age of four. Children less than age four who weigh more than 40 pounds may be secured in a booster seat. Children ages 4, 5, and 6 must be secured in an age- and size-appropriate child safety seat or booster seat

Why was the law changed to cover children up to age seven? Because seat belts are designed to restrain adults - not small children. The vast majority of children are not ready to wear vehicle safety belts until they're at least 8 years old, or at least 57 inches tall. Even then, all children ages 13 and under should continue to ride and be secured in a vehicle's back seat.

There are a variety of booster seats on the market that accommodate children from 40 up to 80 pounds. Several models are weight-rated even higher. Parents should strongly consider using booster seats - even past the age of seven - until their child is tall enough to fit into "adult" safety belts properly.

Q. How will I know when my child is big enough for the seat belts in my car?

It will depend on the size of the child, the shape of the vehicle seat and where the seat belts attach to the vehicle. Have your child sit with his or her back and buttocks all the way back against the seat, fasten the seat belt, then look for these indicators:

  1. Does the shoulder portion of the seat belt fit snugly over the child's shoulder and across the chest, without resting high against the child's neck or jaw?

  2. Does the lap portion of the seat belt ride snugly across the child's hip bones or upper thighs, and NOT the child's abdomen? A lap belt that rides too high on a child's body can cause serious, even fatal, internal injuries in a crash.

  3. Do the child's knees fold comfortably over the edge of the seat? If they don't, the child is likely to edge forward into a more comfortable, but much more dangerous position, in which the lap belt crosses his or her abdomen.

  4. Can your child remain in the proper position for your entire trip?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your child is not yet ready to use the vehicle's safety belts, and therefore should be secured in an appropriately sized booster seat.

Q.  How do I decide which child safety seat is right for my child?

Every child safety seat sold in this country must meet minimum safety standards set by the federal government. Therefore, a child seat that costs $35 can be every bit as good at protecting your child as one that costs $150.

Here are a few simple guidelines to help you select a safe seat for your child:

  1. Pick a seat that fits your child properly. Have your child try out the seat before you buy it and check the manufacturer's instructions for proper fitting guidelines;

  2. Select a child seat that fits in your vehicle properly. A seat that can't be properly secured in your car won't keep your child as safe as possible, no matter how well your child fits into it;

  3. Pick a seat that you will use correctly, every time. A seat that is awkward or hard to adjust or install is unlikely to be correctly adjusted or installed every time you use it.