Car Seat Safety

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child car safety seats in passenger vehicles, when used correctly, reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers ages 1 to 4 years.

Booster seat use reduces the risk of serious injury for children ages 4 to 8 years by 45 percent when compared with seat belt use alone, and for older children and adults, seat belt use reduces the risk for death and serious injury by approximately half.

Guidelines for Car Seat Safety

To keep children as safe as possible when riding in a vehicle, follow these guidelines:

  • Select a car seat that fits in your vehicle and is appropriate for your child’s age and size.
  • Refer to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions and to the vehicle's owners manual for information on how to install the car seat. Check height and weight limits.
  • Keep children in a car seat as long as they fit within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
  • Keep children in the back seat at least until the child is 13 years old.
  • Use your seat belt to provide a good example and help make safety a habit.

Car Seat Safety: Tips for Best Practice

  • Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat in the vehicle’s back seat until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat, at least until they reach their second birthday.
  • Children who have reached the maximum height or weight for a rear-facing seat should ride in a forward-facing car seat in the vehicle’s back seat. Keep children in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and top tether for as long as possible.
  • Children who have reached the maximum weight or height for a forward-facing seat with a harness should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat in the back seat, with the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt securely fastened.
  • Most children who have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old can use a seat belt in the back seat. Keep children in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.

Be sure your kids are ready for a seat belt with the Safekids.org Safety Belt Fit Test (PDF).

Rhode Island Law Related to Car Seat Safety

Rhode Island Car Seat Law (RIGL § 31-22-22):

  • All children must be properly restrained in a child restraint system in the rear of the vehicle if they are younger than 8 years old, unless they are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall and weigh at least 80 pounds.
  • Children less than 2 years old, unless they are over 30 pounds, must be restrained in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Every passenger in the vehicle must be properly restrained, whether it is with a child safety seat or seat belt.

Read the full RI car seat law »