Car Safety

What can I do to protect my child while riding in our car?
  • Children should never travel in a car without fitting properly into a car seat, or an appropriate lap or shoulder restraint.
  • Make sure our care seat is approved by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.  The date of a manufacture should be after January 1981.
  • Infant car seats are used from birth to 1 year and should always face rearward.
  • Toddler and convertible seats for toddlers from 20 lbs. to 40 lbs. can be forward facing.
  • Follow installation instruction of the car seat very carefully.  Not all car seats match all cars and not all car seats match to seats belts the same way. Make an appointment with your local State Police Office to inspect your car seat.
  • Cover your car seat with a towel or covering in hot weather to prevent metal clips from burning your child’s skin.
  • Try to praise your child for using the car seat.  If your child is bored or is fussy, do not remove him from the car seat.  It is better to stop and take a break instead of reinforcing the idea that he can get out of the seat if he makes a fuss.
  • The infant car seat shoulder harness should be securely tightened allowing only 2 fingers widths of space between the hardness and the baby.
  • The car seat should be securely fastened to the car with the seat belt.  A locking clip may be required to tighten the seat belt to prevent movement of the car seat.  Give a hard “tug” in the lap portion of the belt.  If it pulls loose, a locking clip may be the solution.
  • Ask your physician for instructions or information on how to properly install and use a car seat.

Pennsylvania’s Seat Belt Law

  • Under Pennsylvania´s primary child passenger safety law, children under the age of four must be properly restrained in an approved child safety seat anywhere in the vehicle.
  • Children from age four up to age eight must be restrained in an appropriate booster seat.
  • Children from age 8 up to age 18 must be in a seat belt.

Car Seat Recommendations for Children

  • Select a car seat based on your child´s age and size, and choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.
  • Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer´s instructions; read the vehicle owner´s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system; and check height and weight limits.
  • To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer´s height and weight requirements.
  • Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.
  • Visit a PennDOT approved Child Safety Seat Fitting Station for advice.

The following information can be found at

Birth-12 Months

Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.

1-3 Years

Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It´s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat´s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

4-7 Years

Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat´s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it´s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

8-12 Years

Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it´s safer there.

Child Safety Seat Fitting Stations:

PennDOT provides funding for more than 75 fitting stations where trained technicians will check that the child safety seat is properly installed. To find a fitting station near you, search the Fitting Station directory. Use your city and state to find a certified child passenger safety technician through the Safe Kids Website.