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Child Safety Seats

What is a child safety seat?

A child safety seat, or car seat, is a padded seat that secures infants and children while they ride in a car. Your child will need different types of car seats as he gets older and heavier. Car seats include rear-facing, forward-facing, convertible and booster seats. Convertible seats can be rear-facing or forward-facing.

Why are child safety seats important?

Child safety seats are made to protect your child against an injury if you are in an accident. Injuries from car accidents are a leading cause of death in children. Often, injuries and deaths 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.

How will I know my 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 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 should I use a rear-facing child safety seat?

Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are 2 years old or reach the maximum car seat weight. Infant-only or convertible car seats can be used rear-facing. Convertible car seats often have a higher weight maximum. Your child should be secured in the rear-facing seat in the back seat of your car. Your child should be in a tilted back position in the seat. This will allow his head to rest against the back of the car seat. Make sure the harness straps are not loose on your child.

When should I 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. A convertible car seat may also be used as a forward-facing car seat when your child turns 2 years old.

When should I 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 will I know if a seatbelt fits my child as it should?

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. Your child is at risk for serious stomach, back, and neck injuries if the seatbelt does not fit him correctly.

Is it safe for my child to 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.

What kind of child safety seat should I use 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:

Where can I get more information about 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:

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan how your child's safety and care. Learn everything you can about child safety seats and how to use them properly. Work with your child's caregiver to understand how your child can stay safe while he rides in a car.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.

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