Carseat Checklist for All Ages

Use this checklist of carseat tips to make sure your child is riding as safely as possible in your vehicle.

Infant seatRear-facing infantRear-facing toddler

From Birth to Age 2+

  • place child in the back seat every ride
  • use an infant seat or a convertible seat
  • seat always faces the rear of the vehicle (infant seats with handles always face the rear) 1
  • carseat (or infant seat base) moves less than 1″ when you tug at the belt path
  • use the belt path under the child’s thighs on a convertible carseat
  • chest clip is at arm pit level
  • use the harness slots at or below the shoulders
  • harness is snug at all times, even on infant seats used as carriers in stores and restaurants
  • buckle *all* the buckles, not just the chest clip
  • nothing between child and carseat/harness straps (no thick coats and blankets go on top, after child is harnessed)
  • outgrown when child reaches weight limit OR when head is within 1″ of top of carseat
  • switch to rear-facing convertible after infant seat and and use until head is within 1″ of top of rear-facing carseat (read carseat owner’s manual)
  • feet touching back seat is not a reason to turn forward (broken legs are actually more common for forward-facing children)
  • Next step: convertible carseat or rear-facing weight limit is reached

Forward-facing siblingsForward-facing brother and sister

Forward-Facing: from Age 2+ to Age 4+

  • place child in the back seat every ride
  • always rear-facing in the vehicle to maximum limits of rear-facing convertible seat first
  • use a forward-facing carseat (infant seats with handles cannot be used forward-facing)
  • carseat is upright with nothing underneath it
  • use the harness slots at or above the shoulders
  • chest clip is at armpit level
  • harness is snug at all times
  • buckle *all* the buckles, not just the chest clip
  • carseat moves less than 1″ when you tug at the belt path
  • use the forward-facing belt path behind the child’s back
  • seat is outgrown when: tops of ears are above top of seat OR maximum weight limit is reached OR shoulders are above top harness slots
  • Next step: carseat with higher weight harness or belt-positioning booster seat for child over age 4 AND 40 lbs.

Lavender boosterHighback boosterBig kid in a booster

Belt-Positioning Booster: from Over Age 4 AND 40 lbs. to Age 9-11

  • place child in the back seat every ride
  • use a carseat with a higher weight limit harness (manufacturers: Britax, Cosco/Safety 1st, Diono, Evenflo, Graco, Orbit, Recaro, Safe Traffic System)
  • use a belt positioning booster seat with a lap/shoulder seat belt until the Safety Belt Fit Test is passed, which happens around ages 9-11 2
  • highback boosters provide good support and head protection for everyone and feel more like a carseat, which is good for younger kids transitioning to a booster
  • lap/shoulder belts must be used with booster seats; no lap-only belts. A center seating position isn’t safest if it has a lap-only belt because there’s no upper body restraint.
  • seat belt should fit child properly in booster: shoulder belt squarely over shoulder or slightly closer to neck, lap belt low and touching top of thighs
  • if your big kid balks at sitting on a booster, look at the Safety 1st Incognito Kid Positioner–it’s designed to look like the vehicle seat
  • kids should always wear a seat belt on the way to and from school, no matter the distance; backpacks belong on the floor or in the trunk area
  • Next step: vehicle lap/shoulder seat belt

5-Stepping/Safety Belt Fit Test

Vehicle Lap/Shoulder Seat Belt: from Age 9+

  • back seat is the safest place to ride, but at around age 13 kids can start riding up front (airbags can kill before then)
  • child should ride in a booster seat until the child is around 4 feet 9 inches tall and 80 lbs. and all steps of the Safety Belt Fit Test are passed, then he can ride in a lap/shoulder belt

Safety Belt Fit Test

    1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
    2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
    3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
    4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
    5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?


According to our surveys, Clark County has a misuse rate of over 98%. These tips don’t replace a visit to one of our free events—come let us show you how to install your own carseat and make sure your child is riding safely!


1 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat (CSS) until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their CSS.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends rear-facing through age 3.

2 Nevada law states that children must ride in appropriate child restraints until 6 years of age and 60 lbs.; however, children won’t fit the vehicle seat belt correctly to not suffer injury in a crash until the above 5-step test is passed, which happens around ages 9-11. Booster seats are the safest way to make sure your child is restrained when he has outgrown his carseat but is too small for the vehicle seat belt alone.