Car seat laws may vary from state to state. A good to place to start would be the Department of Public Safety for your state, and the manual for your car seat. If you can’t find your manual you can most likely locate it on the manufacturer’s website.
According to the Texas DPS, the 2013 Child Passenger Safety National Best Practice Recommendations state:
- Phase 1-Rear Facing Seats: Infants: Birth – 35+ pounds, 2+ years old. Rear-facing infant or rear-facing convertible safety seat as long as possible, up to the rear-facing height or weight limit of the seat. Properly install according to instructions in owner’s manual, rear-facing in the back seat.
- Phase 2-Forward Facing Seats ; When children outgrow the rear-facing safety seat (2+ years), they should ride in a forward-facing safety seat as long as possible, up to the upper height or weight limit (40 – 80+ pounds) of the harnesses. Usually 4+ years old. Properly installed forward-facing in the back seat. NEVER turn forward-facing before child meets all: AGE/HEIGHT/WEIGHT requirements set by safety seat manufacturer for forward-facing.
- Phase 3-Booster Seats: After age 4 and 40+ pounds, children can ride in a booster seat with the adult lap and shoulder belt until the adult safety belt will fit them properly (usually when the child is 4′ 9″ tall, 10 – 12 years old). MUST have a lap/shoulder belt to use a booster seat.
- Phase 4-Adult Safety Belt: Once children outgrow their booster seat (usually at 4′ 9″, 10 – 12 years) they can use the adult lap/shoulder safety belt if it fits them properly. Lap portion low over the hips/tops of thighs and shoulder belt crosses the center of the shoulder and center of the chest.
Children are better protected the longer they can stay in each phase. Keep children in each seat up to the maximum age/weight/height limits before moving to the next phase. ALL children younger than age 13 years should ride properly restrained in the back seat.
There are so many questions about car seat law and child occupant laws, the State of Texas has put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions:
One such question:
When may I turn my baby from rear-facing to forward-facing?
The given answer:
You must follow the requirements of the manufacturer of the safety seat you use and your child must meet all of the age/height/weight requirements for the type of safety seat you want to use. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ position statement in the April 2011 publication, Pediatrics, children are better protected the longer they can ride in a rear-facing safety seat, up to and beyond, two years old if possible. If your child has reached the upper weight or height limit of their infant seat, the next seat for that child is a convertible safety seat – installed rear-facing. The convertible safety seat will have a deeper seat area to allow children to ride rear-facing for a longer period of time. Various safety seats have rear-facing limits of 30, 33, 35 and 40 pounds. Seats designed to be installed forward-facing have minimum age/height/weight requirements – please read the owner’s manual for correct information on your particular safety seat system.
Something else about car seats, did you know that they expire??
We just about exclusively use Graco products, purely by accident, the stuff we looked at and liked just happened to be Graco, but that is beside the point. According to the Graco website, they place the expiration of their car seats on the bottom.
Here is another link from Graco concerning car seat expiration dates.
Please keep your kids safe. I’ll look up information about properly securing children in-car seats, that’s another post.