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Car Seat Safety Guidelines

Q: Why are there new car seat safety guidelines?

A: The American Academy of Pediatricians and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released new guidelines earlier this year regarding children in car seats. These regulations may not be what you're used to, but they truly make it safe for your child to ride in a car.

Rear-facing car seat

Q: What are these new regulations?

A: They vary based on the age and/or weight of your child:

  • Always secure children under 1 year in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Secure children in a rear-facing car seat until 2 years of age or until the maximum weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
  • When children outgrow the rear-facing car seat, secure them in a forward-facing child safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
  • Once children outgrow the forward-facing child safety seat, secure them in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap and shoulder belt fits properly, typically at 4 feet, 9 inches in height and between 8-12 years of age.
Child in forward-facing car seatForward-facing car seat
  • When children outgrow their belt-positioning booster seat, secure them in a properly fitted lap and shoulder belt. It fits properly when the lap belt lays low and snug across the hips/upper thighs, and the shoulder belt fits across the center of the chest and shoulder.
  • All children under age 13 should ride properly restrained in the back seat.

Q: How do I properly secure my infant in a rear-facing car seat?

A: Always follow vehicle and car seat instructions for correct use. Never leave your child unattended in car seats, inside or outside of the vehicle. Follow these steps.

  • Place baby’s back and bottom flat in seat.
  • Harness slots should be at or below baby’s shoulders.
Booster seat
  • Harness straps must be snug. You should not be able to pinch any slack in harness at baby’s shoulders.
  • Place harness retainer clip at armpit level.
  • Avoid bulky clothing under the snug harnesses. Place a blanket over the child after child is secured in the car seat.
  • Place rolled blanket between child and crotch strap (if necessary).
  • Place rolled blankets at sides of head for positioning (if necessary).
  • Baby’s head must be 1 inch below top of car seat shell.
  • Always follow manufacturer’s instructions for placement of carrier handle.
  • No nonregulated products should be attached to the seat, i.e. toys, wrap and rides, etc.
Safety belt

Q: My son doesn't use a booster seat now. How am I going to tell him he needs one?

A: Children are excellent negotiators, and they may not be happy with the new safety guidelines. Yet it's up to you as a parent to set the right example. Your child's safety comes first, and it's important to stand your ground in the interest of his or her well-being.

Q: Are there other precautions I should take as a parent?

A: Setting a good, safe example for your children also means modeling good driving behaviors. Parents need to set the example of buckling up. Do not use a cell phone or text while driving. Such behavior raises the risk for accidents and sends a negative message to your children.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers instructional videos about proper installation and use of child safety seats.

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This is a non-profit organization. Please consider donating to help heal, comfort and care.

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