Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury and death for children in the United States. At particular risk are infants and other children who ride unrestrained, improperly restrained, or are too close to the instrument panel during a collision. When used correctly, child restraints and safety belts are 50% to 70% effective in preventing fatalities and reducing serious injuries. Unfortunately, despite the existence of laws in all 50 states requiring the use of child restraints, many young children still ride unrestrained in motor vehicles.
Tragic reports of children being seriously injured or killed by air bags have raised public awareness and concern about our ability to adequately protect children who ride in motor vehicles. Air bags can seriously injure or kill occupants, especially those who are not properly restrained in the front seat.
Studies show that when combined with safety belts, air bags are effective in reducing injury and preventing death in adults. But neither safety belts nor air bags are designed to protect infants and other young children, who need the protection of appropriate child restraints. All infants and young children should be secured in a child restraint that is appropriate for their age and size. A rear seat is the safer place for all children to be secured. If a toddler or older child must ride in the front seat, adjust the vehicle seat as far back as possible. During the trip, be sure the child is restrained properly, sitting up against the seat back, and is not leaning forward.
Drivers have a responsibility to ensure that all passengers, including infants and children, are properly restrained in the vehicle. Please take the time to review this material and discuss it with your physician.
Child Restraint Recommendations
Approximate age of child
Approximate size of child
Type of restraint
Premature / low birth weight infants
Premature / low birth weight infants
Infant car bed (2)
Birth to 1 year
Birth to 20 pounds (some restraints can be used rear-facing up to 30 lbs.)
Rear-facing infant restraint (3)
1 to 4 years
20 to 40 pounds; 26 to 40 inches tall
Forward-facing child restraint
4 to 8 years
40 to 80 lbs.
Booster seat (4)
(2) Use only if necessary, as recommended by your physician. When using an infant car bed, be sure it is secured properly with the infants head resting toward the center of the vehicle.
(3) Never place a rear-facing infant restraint in the front seat of a vehicle having a passenger side airbag, unless the vehicle has an air bag cutoff switch and the air bag is turned off.
(4) Use a booster seat until the child outgrows it, at which time the child can use an adult safety belt. Never place shoulder belts behind a child's back or under the arm.
To protect children in motor vehicles, please remember these points:
All infants and young children should be secured correctly in appropriate child restraints.
A rear seat is the safer place for all children to be secured. Never place a rear-facing infant restraint in the front seat of a vehicle having a passenger side air bag unless the air bag is turned off. If a toddler or older child must ride in the front seat, be sure the child is restrained properly and adjust the vehicle sear as far back as possible.
Air bags do not replace the need for all motor vehicle occupants to be properly restrained. Unrestrained occupants of any age are at increased risk of being injured or killed in a collision. Unrestrained occupants in the front seat are especially at risk of possible injury or death from an inflating air bag.
The use of child restraints and safety belts is a learned habit. Begin using an appropriate restraint device the day your baby leaves the hospital, and use one every time you transport your child in a motor vehicle.
For more information on safety belts, child restraints and air bags, call 800-247-9168 and receive a free copy of the 32 page illustrated booklet: Precious Cargo: Protecting the Children Who Ride With You.