JavaScript must be enabled in order for you to use DMVNow in standard view. However, it seems JavaScript is either disabled or not supported by your browser. To use standard view, enable JavaScript by changing your browser options, then try again. To get the best experience, you'll need to upgrade to a modern browser.
Skip to Content
Agencies | Governor
Search Virginia.Gov

Child Safety Seat Frequently Asked Questions

Which child safety seat is escape-proof?
The aim of the child safety seat is to properly restrain the child in the event of a crash. While there is no escape proof child seat, the combination of quality car seats, parental oversight and parental firmness keep children in their seat. According to a study in which SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. participated, most children respond to parental firmness quickly.
Is it better to buy a child safety seat with a 5-point harness or one with a bar that pulls down over the child's head?
If you choose a convertible child safety seat, use a model equipped with a five-point harness system. Avoid models with a t-shield or tray shield, especially for newborns. In a crash, the baby's body may hit the hard plastic shield, causing head, abdominal, and chest injuries.
I have trouble securing my child safety seat. It doesn't seem to work well with my safety belt system. Am I doing something wrong?
It is quite possible that you are not be doing anything wrong, as some child safety seats and vehicle belt systems are not compatible. Your best bet is to read the instructions that come with the child seat and all sections in the vehicle manual that discuss safety seat installation. Don't take "make-shift" measures. Your child should fit securely in the vehicle seat. If your child doesn't, visit Buckle Up Virginia or call 1-800-732-8333 for assistance.
How do I know if my child safety seat is installed tightly enough?
When the seat is properly installed, you should not be able to move it more than one inch from side to side or front to back.
What about tethers for child safety seats?
A tether can help anchor a forward-facing child restraint more securely. During the next three years manufacturer-supplied tethers should be used and are available for many forward-facing car seat models. Many vehicles have predrilled holes for tethers. New child safety seats will have three standard attachments: one on top and two at the base. All new vehicles will have standard anchors in the back seat designed to link to these safety seat attachments. This standardized system for installing child safety seats in cars and light trucks is called LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children).
Where is the best location for the child safety seat?
The center of the back seat is the safest place for a car seat. If the car seat does not fit in the center-rear, then the passenger-rear seat is acceptable as the next best choice.
I like to keep an eye on my infant. If the seat has to be installed rear facing in the backseat, I can't see my baby! What should I do?
For many parents this is a concern, but the bottom line is that the back seat is the safest place for a child of any age to ride. f you travel alone, allow plenty of time to pull off the road to periodically check your baby. Compare your child traveling to your child sleeping. You probably don't watch your baby sleep throughout the night. A healthy baby properly secured in a safety seat should not need constant watching. If your baby has a health condition, then two adults should be in the car when the baby is traveling, one to watch the baby and one to drive.
When can I turn my baby around to face forward in the car?
You can position your baby's seat facing forward when your baby is at least one year old and weighs at least 20 pounds. Babies have heavy heads and fragile necks, with soft bones and stretchy ligaments. When a baby rides facing backwards, the whole-body, head, neck, and torso are safely cradled by the back of the safety seat. Many convertible seats are rated to 30 - 35 pounds in a rear-facing position.
My children get restless in their car seats and try to move around. I find it distracting as they fight one another and I feel it's safer to put one of them up front. What should I do?
Do not place children in the front seat. The safest place is in the rear seat properly buckled. It is important not to give in to a child's growing pains while driving. Bring soft toys to keep them occupied. Keeping them in the back seat may sound difficult to do, but it could save your child's life.
My seven-year old rides in a lap-only belt in the middle of the back seat. Is this safe?
If you do not have shoulder belts in the back seat, use the lap belt since it at least keeps the passenger from being thrown from the car in a crash. Being thrown from the car increases the risk of death by four times compared to staying in the car. If shoulder belts are available, place the child in one of the side seats instead of in the center. However, children between 6 and 8 years of age (approximately 40 to 80 pounds) are safest when seated in booster seats with a shoulder/lap safety belt over them. Booster seats boost small children higher so they fit better and more comfortably in adult safety belts.
I know that a child under age 12 should not ride in the front seat. But, if the child is over age 12, are there height/weight requirements, in addition to age?
While there are no height/weight requirements, children are much safer seated and properly restrained in the back seat regardless of age or the presence of an air bag. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, putting a child in the back seat instead of the front seat reduces the risk of death by 27 percent. Given this, if a child is very small, he is safer if restrained in the back seat.
Are airbags dangerous for children?
Yes. Airbags inflate at speeds up to 200 mph. The blast can severely injure or kill passengers sitting too close. Children are more likely than adults to sit too close to an air bag. As a rule of thumb, children under age 12 should ride properly restrained in the center of the back seat.
Should my child use a safety seat when flying on an airplane?
Yes. The Federal Aviation Administration strongly recommends the use of a child safety seat, but does not require it. If you buy a ticket for your child, you have the right to use a safety seat. But if you don't buy a ticket, you may want to check with the airline about the use of a nearby empty seat. Check the labels on your car seat to make sure if it is certified for use in an aircraft. Make sure the base of your safety seat is no wider than 17 inches so that it fits into a coach-class seat.