If you are visiting family this holiday season, you may be traveling on the roads. During these long road trips, it is important to ensure the safety of your family, such as checking the status of the tires prior to travel. How about if you are traveling with young children? Have you recently evaluated your child’s car seat safety, relating to their current age, weight and height? There is a good chance your child may have outgrown last holiday’s car seat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Car seats reduce the risk of death in car crashes by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4.” In 2014, booster seats helped reduce the risk of serious injury by 45% (in children 4-8 years of age)[a]. To ensure your child is receiving the optimal protection from their car seat, we have compiled a guide to car seat safety:
Finding the perfect car seat:
When searching for the perfect car seat, you should consider many contributing factors, such as the age, weight and height of your child. Usually, rear-facing car seats are designed for children 0-3 years of age, forward-facing car seats are designed for children 1-7 years of age, booster seats are designed for children 4-12 years of age, and seat belts are designed for children 8 years or older.
Exploring Car Seat Options:
- Rear-facing car seat: This car-seat option includes a harness for your young child to wear. In case of an accident, this car seat style cradles with your child to limit the stress to your child’s neck and spinal cord.
- Forward-facing car seat: This car-seat option includes a harness and tether, which reduces your child’s movements during a crash.
- Booster seat: This car-seat option enables the regular seat belt to fit properly over the stronger parts of your child’s body, giving your child an “extra” height boost.
- The seat belt: This option is for the older children, who are tall enough and weigh enough to graduate from the booster seat without needing the “extra” height boost.
Visit NHSTA for car seat recommendations for children based on their age, weight, and height.
Properly installing the car seat:
It is important to review the car seat’s instruction manual and the vehicle owner’s manual (car seat section) prior to installing the car seat. Ensure your child’s car seat is securely tightened by making sure the seat does not move from side-to-side or front-to-back more than 1 inch when pulled at the seat belt path. If you are installing a forward-facing seat with a tether strap, connect the strap to the anchor and tighten it (this important step limits the forward head movement in case of a crash). In addition, when installing a rear-facing car seat, ensure the car seat is correctly installed at the appropriate recline angle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car seats should be installed by:
- Correctly placing child in car seat: When using a rear-facing or forward-facing car seat, make sure the harness is property installed. When using a rear-facing car seat, ensure the straps are flat (not twisted) and place them through the slots at or below your child’s shoulders. Moreover, when using a forward-facing car seat, the straps should be placed through the slots, which are found at or above your child’s shoulders.
- Make sure to buckle the harness, chest clip and tighten.
- It is important that the chest clip is at armpit level.
- Make sure your child is 100% secured in their protective car seat. Don’t rush, accidents happen, and these procedures are to protect your child in the event of a car crash.
If you wish to have your car seat inspected prior to usage, contact your local inspection stations. This is a free service at most California Highway Patrol offices and Fire Stations.
Register your car seat and receive recall notifications:
Practice car seat safety by visiting NHST and registering your child’s car seat. If the car seat does not meet all Federal Safety Standards, you will be immediately notified. A recall may occur if there is a malfunction with the car seat. In this case, the manufacturer will fix the problem. Moreover, you may be entitled to compensation or a replacement. It is important to register your child’s car seat to be fully aware of all recall notices.
Remember – If your child is 12 years or younger, they should ride in the backseat. According to the CDC, “Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag.” If your child is injured in an accident know your rights. Practice car seat safety and avoid car seat-related accidents. Safe Travels!
Have a serious injury and need legal advice? Contact Howard Blau.
[a] Child Passenger Safety. (2016). Retrieved November 29, 2016, from
[b] Parents Central | Keeping Kids Safe | NHTSA . (n.d.). Retrieved
November 29, 2016, from http://www.safercar.gov/parents/
Note: Tips and Information on child seat safety derived from the NHTSA and the CDC