Car seats are a common source of confusion—which car seat do I need? When can my child face forward? When can my child sit in the front seat? Oklahoma State law was updated in November 2015 and now more closely follows the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines.
Oklahoma Car seat law, the skinny:
Birth to age 2: Rear facing car seat with harness
Age 2 to 4: Forward facing car seat with harness (convertible car seat)
Age 4 until 8 (or at least 4’9”): booster seat
Under age 13: Children must be in a back seat.
Birth to age 2: Rear facing car seat with harness:
A rear facing car seat with harness is typically what you use to bring home your brand new baby. These usually have a handle and click into a stationary base that stays in your car. Ideally you want it placed in the center of the back row of seats; however, it is more important that you place it where it both fits (so not in a narrow center seat) and where it is locked in place (requires either a LATCH system or locking seat belt). If you do not have locking seat belts or a LATCH system in the center seat then use one of the side seats. Never place a car seat in the front seat. If a front seat is the only option then ensure that passenger side airbags are turned off. When securing a child in the car seat, be sure the shoulder straps of the harness set BELOW the shoulders in the back and the chest clip should cross at the armpits in the front. Make sure the straps holding your child in are always tight without bulky clothing underneath the straps. If it’s cold just lay a blanket over your strapped in child making sure the blanket stays below the chest. As your child grows they may no longer fit in the infant seat or the car seat may no longer be convenient to use. If that’s the case, you can switch to a convertible car seat that allows your child to be backward facing until a certain height/weight limit is reached (based on each individual car seat) and then you can use a forward facing seat thereafter. Most people switch to a convertible car seat when their child is around one year of age.
Why does the law require rear facing? Most injury causing car wrecks are frontal wrecks, with the impact on the front of your car. When your child is backward facing the car seat helps distribute the force of the crash more equally lessening the impact on your child’s neck. The goal is to protect the neck and spinal cord to prevent injury to these vital areas. Studies show that having your child rear facing is 1.5 times safer than forward facing in infants less that one year and 5 times safer in children from 12 months to 2 years!!
Age 2 to 4: Forward facing car seat with harness:
The convertible car seat transitions your child from rear facing to forward facing. Your child should be in a forward facing harness seat when they are at least two years of age and have outgrown the height and weight limits for rear facing on their car seat. Your child should continue to use this type of car seat until at least age four and until they have outgrown the height and weight limits (usually 50-60lbs) of the seat. The shoulder strap should set ABOVE your child’s shoulders for this forward facing car seat type. When your child’s shoulder is above the highest setting of the shoulder strap or the tops of your child’s ears are at the top of the seat, then it is time to move on to a booster. Helpful tips for forward facing car seats: Ensure the car seat can not move more than an inch in any direction once installed. Always read the directions prior to installing. Never buy a used car seat that you are not aware of the crash history- you don’t want a car seat that has expired or that has been in a car crash.
Age 4 until 8 (or at least 4’-9”) Booster:
A booster seat positions your car’s seat belt in the appropriate position- over your child’s upper thigh and across the shoulder and chest. A high back booster is only necessary for cars that lack a head rest or have low back seats. Your child no longer requires a booster when the seat belt hits them properly on the chest and upper thigh, typically when they are about 4’9”. This is typically between 10 and 11 years of age.
Remember: All children ages 13 and under need to be seated in the back seat of the car.
If you want to be sure that your car seat is installed correctly there are several organizations that can assist you by checking the placement of your car seat. The following website lists a few locations and organizations that can assist you:
OTHER HELPFUL WEBSITES: