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Child Safety Seat Distribution Program

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Child Safety Seat Distribution Program?

The Child Safety Seat Distribution Program focuses on keeping children safe by providing child safety seats at no cost to families that meet income eligibility requirements to ensure that they are in the best child seat for their height and weight until they are at least 4'9", At 4'9", most children can safely wear a seat belt.

What is current South Dakota law concerning child safety seats?

Effective July 1, 2001, all occupants of a vehicle 17 years of age and under must be buckled up. Children under 5 years of age and under 40 pounds are required to use an approved child safety seat in all seating positions. This is a primary offense, which means a driver can be stopped for having children or youth not restrained in their vehicle even without another violation. Drivers are responsible for all passengers 0-17, which means you can be ticketed for not having children or youth properly restrained. This violation is a petty offense.

How do I determine which child seat is best for my child and my vehicle?

You should always read both the vehicle owner's manual and the instructions that come with the child safety seat. It's important to remember the "best" child safety seat is the one that correctly fits the child, the vehicle, and is used correctly every time.

What type of Child Safety Restraints are available?

The Child Safety Seat Distribution Program distributes rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats to income eligible families across South Dakota as well as those who have children with special needs.

Can I use a second-hand seat?

Purchasing seats from garage sales and re-sale shops is not recommended. However, you may use a second-hand seat if the seat is not expired, is free of recalls, has not been involved in a crash, all the labels are on the seat, the instruction manual is present, you know the individual who previously owned the seat, and you know the history of the seat.

What are common misuses of child seats?

  • Harness too loose
  • Harness clip too low (could result in injury based on where located)
  • Seat does not fit child's height and weight
  • Infant seat not reclined to 45 degrees
  • Seat not tight (should not move than 1 inch to either side)

When can my child move from a rear facing to a forward facing seat?

The best way to keep your child safe is to keep him or her rear-facing as long as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be placed in rear-facing seats until they reach the top height or maximum weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. A child should NEVER be switched from rear facing to forward facing before one year old AND 20 lbs. Please read the seat manual as many seats are approved for children over 20 lbs to ride rear facing.

When can my child sit in the front seat?

Children age 12 and under are safest riding in the back seat. Kids are safest when riding in the rear middle seat. REMEMBER: Never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of a passenger air bag.

When is my child ready to use a seat belt?

Until age 8, most children have not developed strong hipbones, and their legs and body are too short to allow for proper fit of a safety belt. Safety belts are designed for adults. Always check belt fit on the child in every vehicle. A belt-positioning booster seat may be needed in some vehicles and not in others.

To be able to fit a safety belt, a child must:

  • Be tall enough to sit without slouching,
  • Keep his/her back against the vehicle seat back,
  • Keep his/her knees completely bent over the edge of the seat,
  • Keep his/her feet flat on the floor, and
  • Be able to stay comfortably seated this way.
  • The lap belt must fit low and tight across the upper thighs. The shoulder belt should rest over the center of the shoulder and across the chest.
NEVER put the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the child's back. This can cause severe head injuries or internal injuries in a crash. If the safety belt does not fit properly the child should use a belt-positioning booster seat.

What are the best practice recommendations for safety seats?

Infants infant

Age: Birth to 1 year

Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.

There are different types of rear-facing car seats:

  • Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing.
  • Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.


Age: 1 to 3 yearsToddler
The best way to keep your child safe is to keep him or her rear-facing as long as possible.

Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer.

Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

Young Children

Age: 4 to 7 yearsYoung

A forward-facing car seat with a harness should be used for your child until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer.

Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it's time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

Age: 8 to 12 yearsYoung1

Use a booster seat until your child is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.

To fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not across the neck or face.

Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it's safer there.


The links listed below provide additional information on child seats and safety.

Child Passenger Safety:

American Academy of Pediatrics, Car Sear Safety

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA)

SafeKids Safety Tips

Safe Kids Worldwide Ultimate Car Seat Guide

Special Needs Transportation:

Automotive Safety Program