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Infants and young children must ride in an approved safety seat whenever they travel in a motor vehicle. These devices restrain the child safely and reduce the risk of injury in the event of a motor vehicle accident. 

Protect your little ones while driving by adhering to the child safety seat laws in Pennsylvania, which are among the strictest in the nation. 

Safety seat laws by age 

State law requires the use of a Department of Transportation-approved safety seat for children up to age 4. The child must remain rear-facing until he or she is both 2 years old and meets the maximum rear-facing height and weight limits for the specific safety seat model. 

Use an approved booster seat when children turn 4 up until age 8. These seats help the vehicle’s seat belt fit over the child’s shoulder correctly and safely. The child must wear a seat belt once he or she turns 8 and through adulthood. 

Best practices for safety 

Parents can choose to keep their child in a safety seat or a booster seat beyond these age requirements as long as the child still meets the height and weight requirements for that seat. In addition, kids should not ride in the front seat of a car until at least age 12, because airbag deployment can cause serious injury to smaller children. 

Even when your child is in the right type of safety seat, you must make sure to position the straps correctly on his or her body. With a five-point harness, place the clip at chest level. Straps should lay flat at the child’s shoulders. With a booster seat, the seat belt should fit snugly across the hips while the shoulder belt fits snugly against the chest. 

If you are not sure of how to choose an appropriate car seat and install it in your vehicle correctly, PennDOT can help. The agency hosts more than 75 car seat installation stations throughout the state with assistance from trained safety seat technicians.