This page is meant to be the most comprehensive source of car seat safety resources on the web, and will be continuously updated (if you have a resources to add, please leave a comment at the bottom of the article).
On this page you'll find a summaries of the following topics, along with links to more in-depth info on each topic:
And (as they say in late night infomercials) much more!
What age can a child use a convertible car seat?
The great thing about convertible car seats is they can be used in both the rear-facing and forward-facing positions. Your child can use a convertible car seat from the moment they leave the hospital. However, it’s crucial to your baby’s safety that you adhere to the age and size requirements when placing your car seat in the rear or forward-facing position.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), convertible car seats can be used from your child’s birth up until they’re 12 months old - as long as it’s in the rear-facing position. The NHTSA also advises that you only transition to a forward-facing car seat once your child meets the height and weight requirements. This means that your child could be using the rear-facing convertible car seat until they’re at least 3 years old, which is the safest way for them to travel.
After your child has outgrown their rear-facing car seat, you may place it in the forward-facing position with a harness. Children who meet the height and weight requirements can ride in a forward-facing car seat from ages 1 - 7.
What are the height and weight requirements for a convertible car seat?
Most car brands have some sort of “Find my seat” or “Fit my child” tool that helps you find a car seat for your child’s specific height, weight, and age. Healthy Children reports that as a general guideline, most convertible car seats should only seat children who weigh 65 pounds or less. Children who exceed the height and weight requirement should transition to using a booster seat.
Learn more about car seat stages and ages.
Where is the safest place to put a car seat?
First and foremost, ALWAYS seat your child in the backseat. One of the most common mistakes that parents make is seating in their children in the wrong spot. If you put your child in the front seat and the airbag inflates, they could suffer from injuries that may be fatal.
Let’s say that for some reason your child has to sit in the front seat. If they do, make sure that you deactivate the front airbags.
When you seat your child in the backseat, try seating them in the middle, but only if the car seat can comfortably fit there. Seating your child away from the doors will minimize the risk of serious injury in case there’s an accident.
Car seat safety check:
Taking your car seat to get checked is a good extra step to take to make sure that your car seat is installed safely. It's helpful to have someone who's trained in teaching others about care seat safety to double-check your work. Also, taking your car seat to get checked may show you things about car seat safety that you didn't know before.
Where can I get my car seat checked near me, to ensure I've installed it correctly?
Getting your car seat checked is a great way to ensure that traveling with your young one is always safe. The National Child Passenger Certification Training Program certifies people to educate the community on child passenger safety (CPS). These certified technicians will teach you how to properly and safely install a car seat. They’ll also inspect your car seat to ensure that it’s safe and up to date with the industry standards.
To make sure you’re prepared, you should try to set up an appointment with a CPS technician at least 2 months before your due date. You can locate a CPS technician through the National CPS Certification Program.
Also, you can find events hosted by the Safe Kids organization that’s designed to teach you all there is to know about child passenger safety. They hold events year-round across the country, so there’s always an opportunity.
Finally, you can check our guide to car seat safety checks.
What are some of the "best practices" for installing a car seat so it's safe?
Installing your child’s car seat correctly is something that should be taken very seriously. Below are a few important practices that you should implement when making sure that your car seat is installed safely.
- Place your car seat in the right direction. As we previously discussed, your child's car seat should be in the rear-facing position until they meet the height-weight requirements for forward-facing car seats.
- The car seat should fit comfortably on your vehicle's seat.
- Use either a seatbelt or the LATCH system to make sure your child's car seat is secure.
- Adjust the harness straps and buckle as needed. Pinch the straps to see if there's slack that needs to be removed.
- Make sure you check your car seat's expiry date.
- Accessories (including infant accessories, head support, seat protector, and strap covers) can sometimes be unsafe. Make sure to read up on car seat accessories safety.
- Thinking about buying a used car seat? Think some more! There are definitely pros and cons to buying a used car seat.
- If you're in the market for a car, there are some cars that are safer for kids than others.
- Toddler refusing to stay in their seat? It's a common problem. Check out our guide to keeping your toddler in their seat.
Where can I download a good car seat safety checklist online?
Safe Kids provides a helpful car seat safety checklist that can be downloaded straight to your device. With this checklist, you’ll be able to properly prepare your child’s car seat and ensure that they're strapped in securely.
Here's an image of a general car seat safety checklist, courtesy of mypositiveparenting.org.
Where can I register my car seat online?
You can register your car seat with the NHTSA here. To do so, you need to fill out the registration form that came with the car seat. Once the form is filled out, you can send it to the manufacturer directly to receive important updates about your car seat. It’s essential that you send in this form when you buy your car seat because all manufacturers are required to update you your car seat is being recalled.
If you don’t want to do that, the NHTSA will send your registration information to your manufacturer for you using this form. It’s easy to do, and it will ensure that your child is riding in the safest car seat at all times.
Car seat recall list:
If your car is being recalled, you want to be the first to know about it. A recall means that the manufacturer has found an overwhelming fault or hazard with their product. Again, make sure that you register your vehicle with your manufacturer so that you can be notified if your car seat is being recalled.
Where can I find a list of Britax car seats that have been recalled?
One way to find out which Britax car seats have been recalled is to check out their list of Britax safety notices. Here, you’ll find a chronological list of car seats that have been recalled. Additionally, as we previously discussed, you can register your car seat to receive a notification if it makes the recall list.
Car seat laws (by state):
Car seat laws are put in place to ensure that your child is riding safely in your vehicle at all times. They also hold you accountable for making sure that your child is buckled in and secured correctly.
Each state has different laws about car seat safety. In addition to that, they also have various consequences for people who don’t adhere to their laws.
Where can I find the car seat laws for my state?
To find a list of your states’ laws, check out Safe Ride 4 Kids. They update their list annually to help you stay up to speed with car seat safety regulations.
Car seat safety statistics:
Car accidents are the number one killer of infants and children. Below is a list of car seat safety statistics - both the good and the bad.
What are the statistics on car seat safety in the USA?
Installing your child’s car seat correctly minimizes the risk of fatal injury in a car crash. You’d be surprised just how many parents make fatal mistakes when installing their child’s car seat and don’t even know it.
- All 50 states, excluding the District of Columbia, have child restraint laws.
- The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) set up by the U.S. Department of Education shows that between 1975 and 2017, child crash deaths dropped by 51%.
- A table reported by the FARS shows that in 1975, 1,384 children under the age of 13 were killed in a motor vehicle accident. In 2017, 677 children were killed in moto vehicle accidents. This drastic decrease in fatal accidents is due to strict, primary laws created to keep children safe while riding a vehicle
- Most states suggest that children who are 12 years old and younger should ride in the back seat. 12% of children who were killed in a car crash were sitting in the front seat.
- For parents with newborns, ALL hospitals require that you transport your baby from the hospital to your vehicle in a car seat. A study was conducted by The Journal of Pediatrics in 2014 to see how many parents don’t use their car seats correctly when their newborn is discharged. Some of these findings were presented to the Council of Injury Violence and Poison Prevention at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ National Conference and Exposition. The study concluded that out of 291 families, almost 95% of them were using their car safety seats incorrectly. Errors were found in the way the parents secured the harness and belt. There were also problems in the recline angle and lower anchor use.
- According to the CDC, 22% of the children under the age of 4 that were killed in 2017 due to motor vehicle accidents weren’t buckled in. Also, 59% of the children who were killed were sitting in car seats that were installed in a way that put the child at more risk of a fatal accident.
- Another study conducted in 2016 showed that 49% of parents using the rear-facing car seat were doing so incorrectly.
- In 2011, the NHTSA conducted a National Child Restraint Use Special Study to evaluate the use of car seats in 4,167 vehicles. The results showed that overall, 46% of families were misusing their car seats. Misusing means that you’re either installing or buckling in your child in a way that could reduce the security of the car seat.
- It’s important to note that some infant deaths are the result of babies sleeping in their car seat when they’re not in a vehicle. An article posted in USA Today states that from 2004 to 2014 3% out of 11,779 sleep-related deaths happened in sitting devices like car seats and strollers.
- 618,000 children from birth to 12 years old were found riding in a motor vehicle without using a car/booster seat.
The most common mistake made when installing a car seat is not securing it tight enough. Also, the harness straps and buckle clips weren't as secure as they should've been. These statistics aren’t meant to scare you. They’re here to educate you on the risks you can put your child in if you don’t properly install their car seat. There’s a heartbreaking story told by a mother who lost her son due to car seat misuse. She recounts that the situation could’ve easily been prevented if she had had the knowledge about car seat safety that she does now. While her story is very sad, it serves as a lesson to parents with newborns, infants, toddlers, and young children.
Car Seat Safety: Common Mistakes & Top Tips by Safe Kids Worldwide
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