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Child Safety Seats


A child safety seat is a padded seat that secures infants and children while they ride in a car. Every child safety seat has age, height, and weight ranges. Keep using the car seat until your child reaches the maximum of the range. Then he is ready for the child safety seat that is the next size up. Continue to follow this pattern until your child can use a seatbelt safely.


Importance of child safety seats:

Child safety seats are made to protect your child against an injury in an accident. Injuries from car accidents are a leading cause of death in children. Injuries and deaths often would be prevented if the child were secured in the appropriate car seat. Always set a good example for your children by wearing your own seatbelt.

What you need to know about child safety seats:

You will need to move the child safety seat to any other car your child will be riding in. Follow the instructions for installing and using your specific child safety seat. Directions for one type may not work for another type.

  • Car seats include rear-facing, forward-facing, convertible, and booster seats. Your infant will start with a rear-facing infant car seat. He will grow into a forward-facing seat. Convertible seats start as rear-facing and can be converted into forward-facing seats when your child is ready. He will move to a booster seat over time.

  • Choose a seat that meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. The seat will have a label stating that it meets this standard. The seat will also state an expiration date. Do not use the seat past this date.

  • Do not use any other type of seat. Only use child safety seats. Do not use a toy chair or prop your child on books or other objects.

  • Make sure the child safety seat has a harness and clip. The harness is made of straps that go over your child's shoulders. The straps connect to a buckle that rests over your child's abdomen. These straps keep your child in the seat during an accident. Another strap comes up from the bottom of the seat and connects to the buckle between your child's legs. This strap keeps your child from slipping out of the seat. Slide the clip up and down the shoulder straps to make them tighter or looser. You should be able to slip a finger between your child and the strap.

  • Do not reuse a child safety seat. Over time, child safety seats become less effective. They may develop cracks or lose parts that are needed for safety. Replace the child safety seat after an accident. Never use a seat given to you after it was in a car that had an accident. You can also check with the manufacturer to see if the seat was recalled.

  • The child safety seat may have a top tether. A tether is a strap at the top of the seat. It connects to the back seat of some cars. This helps keep the seat in place during an accident.

How to know your child safety seat is properly secured:

The best spot to place your child safety seat is in the middle of the back seat. The car seat should not move more than 1 inch in any direction once you have secured it. If the car seat is not installed tightly, your child may be injured by the movement in an accident. Always follow the instructions provided to help you position the car seat. The instructions will also guide you on how to secure your child properly.

When to use a rear-facing child safety seat:

  • Your infant will ride in only a rear-facing child safety seat. Continue to use this type of seat until your child is 2 years old or reaches the maximum car seat weight provided by the manufacturer.

  • Your child should be secured in the rear-facing seat in the back seat of your car. It is okay if his feet touch the back of the car seat.

  • The seat will be tilted back. This will allow your child's head to rest against the back of the car seat. Make sure the harness straps are not loose.

  • You can prop rolled towels around your baby to keep him from slouching or falling over in the seat.

When to use a forward-facing child safety seat:

  • Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he will need a forward-facing car seat.

  • Your child must stay in the forward-facing car seat until he is at least 4 years old and 40 pounds.

  • Your child needs to be secured in the car seat in the back seat of your car.

  • All forward-facing car seats must have harness straps to secure the child.

When to use a booster child safety seat:

  • Children aged 4 to 8 years should ride in a booster car seat in the back seat.

  • Booster seats come with and without a seat back. Your child will be secured in the booster seat with the regular seatbelt in your car.

  • Your child must stay in the booster car seat until he is between 8 and 12 years old and 4 foot 9 inches (57 inches) tall. This is when a regular seatbelt should fit your child properly without the booster seat.

  • Your child should remain in a forward-facing car seat if you only have a lap belt seatbelt in your car. Some forward-facing car seats hold children who weigh more than 40 pounds. The harness on the forward-facing car seat will keep your child safer and more secure than a lap belt and booster seat.

How to know if a seatbelt fits your child properly:

  • Seatbelt use is necessary when your child is in a booster seat or after he reaches 4 foot 9 inches tall.

  • The lap belt portion of the seatbelt must lie snuggly across your child's hips and pelvis. The lap belt should not be across your child's stomach. The shoulder belt must fit across your child's shoulder and the middle of his chest. The shoulder belt should never cross your child's neck or face.

  • Your child needs to sit with his back straight up against the seat and his knees bent at the seat's edge. He is at risk for serious stomach, back, and neck injuries if the seatbelt does not fit him correctly.

Do not let your child ride in the front seat:

Children younger than 13 years should always ride in the back seat. Never let a child younger than 13 years or still in a car seat ride in the front seat of a car that has a passenger side airbag. The force of an airbag can cause serious or deadly injury to your child. This is especially important for infants in a rear-facing car seat. Ask for more information about airbag injuries and how to prevent them.

Safety seats for a child with special needs:

Children with physical or developmental problems may need specially made child safety seats. For information about how to secure your special needs child safely, contact the following:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:
  • Automotive Safety Program
    575 Riley Hospital Drive Room 004
    Indianapolis , IN 46202
    Phone: 1- 317 - 944-2977
    Phone: 1- 800 - 543-6227
    Web Address:

For more information on child safety seats:

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington , DC 20590
    Phone: 1- 888 - 327-4236
    Web Address:
  • National SAFE KIDS Campaign
    1301 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Ste 1000
    Washington , DC 20004
    Phone: 1- 202 - 662-0600
    Web Address:

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.