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Tips on Child Car Seat Safety
Types of Child Car Seats
- Babies should remain rear-facing until they reach the highest height and weight allowed by their seat's manufacturer or until they are two years of age.
- Harness straps should be at or below the baby’s shoulders.
- Harness chest clips should be at baby’s mid-chest level.
- Again, follow the manufacturer's height and weight requirements and limits.
- The seat must face rearward only and recline at the correct angle so that the baby's head does not flop forward. Many seats have an angle indicator or can be adjusted to the correct angle.
- A seat with more than one set of slots and adjustable buckles and shields gives room for your baby to grow.
- After outgrowing their infant seats, babies can ride rear-facing in convertible seats.
- Children should ride in a forward-facing seat that has a harness until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car safety seat manufacturer.
- Usually children should ride in a forward-facing seat until they are at least four years old.
- Shoulder straps should be at or above your child's shoulders. Some convertible seats require the straps to be in the highest slots. Check your seat's instructions.
- The seat belt should go through the seat's forward-facing belt path.
- Backless boosters are used with car seat belts (lap and shoulder). The seat raises the child so that the seat belts fit properly. They can be used in cars with headrests and high seat backs.
- High-back boosters are useful in cars that lack headrests or have low seat backs.
- The AAP recommends against the use of extra products to use with the seat unless they came with the seat.
- The lap belt should lie low across your child's upper thighs and fit snugly.
- The shoulder belt should cross the middle of your child's chest and shoulder.
Choosing a Child Car Seat
- Make sure that the car seat fits your child’s size and weight.
- The car seat has to install easily and fit correctly in your vehicle.
- Try out the seat before purchasing. Adjust all straps and harnesses, checking them for ease of use and security.
- Put the seat in your vehicle and make sure it fits.
- Read the instructions carefully. Illustrations and displays in stores do not always show correct use of the car seat.
- Is too old—Contact the manufacturer for recommendations on how long the seat can be used. Check the label for the date when it was made.
- Is lacking a manufacturer date and model number—These allow you to check for recalls.
- Does not have an instruction manual
- Has cracks in the frame or seat or is missing parts
- Was in a moderate or severe crash
- Was recalled—Contact the manufacturer or the Auto Safety Hot Line (toll free) at 1-888-DASH-2-Dot (1-888-327-4236). You can also check at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website.
The LATCH System
Correct Use of the Child Car Seat
- Always use a car seat when transporting your infant or young child.
- Read car seat instructions and vehicle owner’s manual before using the car seat. Keep all instructions and owner’s manuals. If you lose them, call the manufacturer.
- Children should ride in the back seat. Never put a child in a rear-facing car seat in the front of a vehicle with an airbag. For vehicles with side airbags, read the car seat owner’s manual for instructions on where to place the car seat.
- Always make sure that the child is snugly buckled into the child car seat. Use the correct harness slots and make sure the straps lie flat.
- Always make sure that the child car seat is securely attached to the seat of the vehicle. Push on the car seat where the seat belt passes through. It should not move more than one inch in any direction. If you cannot get the belt tight enough, use another set of belts in the vehicle. Make sure seat belts can be locked into position; check your vehicle owner’s manual. If not, you may need to buy a locking clip.
- If the seat is not reclined enough, your baby’s head may flop forward. Check the manufacturer's instructions for your seat to determine the correct angle.
- Never use a car sear outside of the car. Car seats are designed to be securely positioned in a vehicle. Falls can happen when a baby is placed in a car seat outside of the car. For example, if the seat is placed on the ground or on a table, the baby could fall and be seriously injured.
Information on Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technicians
American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.aap.org/
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/
Canada Safety Council http://www.safety-council.org/
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/
American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Child Passenger Safety. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Accessed November 27, 2012.
American Academy of Pediatrics Updates Recommendation on Car Seats. American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Updates-Recommendation-on-Car-Seats.aspx . Updated March 21, 2010. Accessed November 27, 2012.
Anticipatory Guidance. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated November 26, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2012.
Car Safety Seats: Information for Families for 2012. Healthy Children from the American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx . Updated May 18, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian P. Randall, MD
- Review Date: 11/2012
- Update Date: 11/27/2012