A NHTSA fact sheet provides the following breakdown of which children should be placed in which types of car seats:
- Birth to 12 months -- Rear-facing car seat like the one shown to the right, mounted properly in the rear seat of a car.
- 1 to 3 years -- Forward-facing car seat only when the toddler no longer fits in the rear-facing seat.
- 4 to 7 years -- Forward-facing car seat for as long as your child fits, then use a booster seat that ensures a lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits your child securely across the chest and thighs.
- 8 to 12 years -- Booster seat as long as needed, usually until your child grows to 4 feet 9 inches.
U.S. Department of Transportation emphasized that the age guidelines were less important than ensuring that the "the 'best' car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and one you will use every time your child is in the car."
North Carolina requires "child restraints" for any kid younger than 8 years old and under 40 lbs. Also, any child younger than 16 must ride in the back seat of a car. Virginia enforces somewhat stricter child passenger protection laws, calling specifically for baby and infant car seats, as well as booster seats for any kid younger than 8.
Protecting children in the event of car and truck accidents is essential. With crashes accounting for the largest number of deaths for school-age children each year, following the new car seat recommendations should spare many families the pain of losing a young son or daughter.