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Children's Car Safety Seats

Safety Tips for Child Safety Seats

Always properly secure your child in a car safety seat–no matter how short your trip.

Using a car safety seat can mean the difference between life and death for your child. Many children are killed or seriously injured because they weren’t in a car safety seat or were not properly restrained.

Selecting a car safety seat for your child can be challenging because of the wide selection available. If you’re confused about which car safety seat is best and how to correctly install one, these questions and answers may help:

How can I tell if my child’s car safety seat is safe?

There are many different brands of car safety seats. Make sure you buy one that meets the Federal motor vehicle safety standard indicated by a label on the seat. Don’t purchase or accept a used car safety seat if you can avoid it, because car safety seats are designed to withstand crash forces only once. If you do have a used car safety seat, be certain you have all the pieces and the proper installation instructions. Otherwise, you may be taking a real risk with the life and safety of your child.

How do I correctly install my child’s car safety seat?

Read the car safety seat instructions and your car owner’s manual carefully for specific directions before buying and installing a car safety seat. Some car safety seats are not compatible with certain cars.

The most common mistake is not installing the car safety seat tightly enough in the vehicle. A car safety seat should not move more than one inch from side to side or toward the front of the car once it is in place.

What type of car safety seat should I use?

This depends on the age and weight of your child. For babies who are younger than one year and who weigh less than 20 pounds, use a rear-facing car safety seat–it provides more protection to the head and neck and reduces the risk of injury in a crash.

Kids older than one year and who weigh more than 20 pounds may be placed in a forward-facing car safety seat, but because a rear-facing seat is safer, the child should remain in that type seat as long as possible. Place children between ages four years and eight years or who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds in a booster seat, which raises the child to a level that is high enough for the seat belt to fit properly. Kids should ride on booster seats until they are about 4’9″ tall.

Always place a child in the back seat of a car–no matter how old he or she may be.

For much more child car safety seat information please visit the Car Safety Seat Guide published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here is a short list of safety tips from that Web site:

  • Always use a car safety seat. You can start with your baby’s first ride home from the hospital.
  • Never place a child in a rear-facing car safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger air bag.
  • The safest place for all children to ride is in the back seat.
  • Set a good example – always wear your seat belt. Help your child form a lifelong habit of buckling up.
  • Remember that each car safety seat is different. Read and keep the instructions that came with your seat handy, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions at all times.
  • Read the owner’s manual that came with your car on how to correctly install car safety seats.
  • If you need help installing your car safety seat, contact a certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician. To locate one near you and set up an appointment, call toll-free at 866/SEATCHECK (866/732-8243) or visit seatcheck.org.
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