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Best Practice Recommendations

As defined in the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Program 2007, “Best practice is the gold standard of protection. It is the most acceptable way to transport a child safely on the basis of the child’s age, weight, height, and body development.” In March 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released separate but similar recommendations on optimal restraint of child passengers.

Read below to learn general and age-specific best practice recommendations.

General Recommendations

  • Keep your child in an age and size appropriate car seat as long as the child fits the manufacturer’s weight and height requirements
  • Keep children in the back seat at least until they reach age 13
  • Always refer to your specific car seat and vehicle manuals about how to use and install your car seat
  • Use the top tether of your forward-facing car seat. It will limit how far forward your child moves during a crash.

Age-specific recommendations

Birth-12 months

Always use a rear-facing car seat

1-3 years

Keep your child rear-facing until he or she reaches the top weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer (the AAP recommends rear-facing until a child is 2 years old or until they reach the top weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer).

4-7 years

Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufactuer. When your child outgrows the car seat, he or she can be moved to a booster seat.

8-12 years

Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she fits properly in a vehicle seat belt. To fit properly, the lap portion of the seat belt should lie snuggly across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt should fit snuggly across the middle of the shoulder and the chest (according to the AAP, a child is typically 4’9″ tall and between 8 and 12 years old before a seat belt fits properly).

For more detailed information, we suggest the following:

To read the AAP’s policy statement on child passenger safety, click on

To read the AAP’s technical report on child passenger safety, click on

To read NHTSA’s recommendations, click on

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) has a website devoted to explaining the rationales behind best practice recommendations.  To learn more, visit