By Beth Weinhouse
Boost Your Knowledge
Question: At what age do kids no longer need to ride in a car seat or booster seat: after age 2, after age 3, or after age 5? Answer: None of the above, it's a trick question.

Currently different states have different laws about the age at which a child no longer needs to use a car seat, but recommend that after small children outgrow car seats they need to transition to a booster seat until the car's regular seatbelt fits them correctly. This happens when they reach about 4' 9" tall and weigh 80-100 pounds. The reasons for parents to adhere to these standards to protect their children are compelling; according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are the number one killer of children age 1 to 12 in the United States.

The good news is that these deaths are easily preventable. Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent, and older children sitting in a booster seat in the back seat of a car are 45 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than children using a seatbelt alone. To keep your kids safe, NHTSA says the key is to put your kids in the right seat at the right time and use the seat in the right way. Here are some car seat safety guidelines for doing just that:

  • Select seats from brands or models recommended by consumer or national safety organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Buy the appropriate size for your child's height and weight: infants, toddlers, and young children all have different safety seat needs.
  • Register your seat with the manufacturer after purchase, so you will be notified of any recalls.
  • Visit a local car seat inspection station to have a certified technician inspect your child's car seat, and show you how to correctly install and use it. An estimated 73 percent of car seats are used or installed incorrectly, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Many police departments and fire stations will do this inspection for you, and the NHTSA has a car seat inspection station locator to make finding a technician in your area simple.
  • Make sure to replace your seat after any moderate or severe crash. Follow recommended criteria to evaluate the safety of the seat after these types of incidents.
  • Continually re-evaluate. Your children are growing and their car seat safety needs will change with them. Make sure they have an up to date car seat or booster seat for their current needs.


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