Federal guidelines for child car seats are listed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association on its website, SaferCar.gov. All American-made car seats must meet the federal guidelines for child safety, the agency states.
The guidelines are broken down by age and detail which type of car seat is appropriate for each age, states SaferCar. According to the guidelines, all children up to age 13 must ride in the back seat and must be restrained either in a car seat or booster seat or by a seat belt, depending on the child's age, height and weight. Infants up to age 1 must ride in rear-facing car seats, but rear-facing seats also are appropriate for children up to age 3. Children ages 1 through 7 may ride in forward-facing car seats. Children ages 4 through 7 who outgrow the forward-facing seat may move to booster seats and continue in booster seats to age 12. Children who are large enough to fit correctly into a seat belt may do so as early as age 8.
All states have child restraint laws, some more stringent and specific, such as exact ages and sizes for each seat type, states the Governors Highway Safety Association. Most states also have fines or license demerits associated with breaking the laws.