All fifty states require that children ride in car seats. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges that all newborns discharged from hospitals be brought home in infant car seats. The AAP has established car seat guidelines for low birth-weight infants, which include riding in a rear-facing seat and supporting the infant with ample padding around the sides, outside the harness system. A convertible car seat is recommended as a child gets older.
Infants and young children always should ride in car seats—preferably in the backseat—because it is safest. Never use a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with a passenger-side air bag. An infant or child should never ride in an adult’s arms. Children age twelve and younger should ride in the rear seat.
Older children should use booster seats until the vehicle safety belt fits well. The shoulder belt should lie across the chest, with the lap belt low and snug across the thighs, and the child should sit against the vehicle’s seat back with her feet hanging down when her legs are bent at the knees.