Car Seat Safety for All Ages of Children

Perhaps the most important investment you can make in your child’s future is a child safety seat. A child safety seat prevents your child from being thrown about or out of the vehicle. The Injury Prevention Program within the Cincinnati Children’s Trauma Services Department offers guidelines to assist in child car seat selection.

Even after adhering to a car seat manufacturer’s requirements and installation instructions, some children have difficulty fitting into a safety seat. A car seat inspection by trained professionals can be helpful in determining whether the child and car seat are a good match for one another.

Well-designed child car seats spread the force of a crash evenly over a child’s fragile body and protect the child’s head and spinal cord.

Used properly, a safety seat also improves child behavior, lessening the chance of the child distracting the driver and causing an accident.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children remain rear facing until 2 years old or until they reach the highest weight and height limit for their child restraint (car seat).

Choosing a Car Seat

Infant:

  • An infant seat usually has a base that you can leave attached in the car and a seat with a carrying handle. A child can use this seat beginning around 4 to 5 pounds.
  • Check the label on the side of the seat to see what the weight limit is for your seat. Many seats are rear-facing until 22 to 35 pounds.
  • Once your child weighs more than the limit of the seat, or when his or her head gets closer than 1 inch to the top of the seat, it is time to move into the next stage.

Convertible:

  • Many convertible seats are great fits for infants because they can be used beginning at 5 pounds.
  • Convertible car seats go both rear and forward facing in the car and usually can be used to a higher weight limit than an infant seat.
  • This seat is installed in the car and does not allow you to carry the child in the seat. 

Using a Car Seat

  • Always use the seat rear facing only.
  • A child should remain rear facing until he or she reaches a minimum of 1 year AND 20 pounds. Check your state’s law.
  • The baby should always ride in the back seat of the car. If your child must ride in the front seat, make sure the air bag is turned off.
  • Rear-facing harnesses should be at or below the shoulders. The chest clip should be at armpit level or across the nipple line.
  • The harness should be snug around the child. Make sure you snug around the legs first.
  • The child’s head needs to be 1 inch below the top of the seat.

Proper Installation is Key

  • Before installing the seat, read both your car and the car seat’s instruction manuals to make sure the seat is installed properly.
  • Make sure to use either the latch system or the seat belt, NEVER BOTH.
  • Make sure your child’s car seat is checked by a certified seat technician.
  • To find a fitting station near you, call your local fire or police station or visit www.nhtsa.gov.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Never purchase a used car seat.
  • Never use anything with the car seat that was not originally sold with the seat. When car seats are tested for safety, they are crash-tested with only the products that come with the seat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children remain rear facing until 2 years old or until they reach the highest weight and height limit for their child restraint (car seat).

Choosing a Car Seat

Convertible:

  • Convertible car seats go both rear and forward facing in the car and usually can be used to a higher weight limit than an infant seat.
  • This seat helps to keep a child rear facing longer and can be used to a weight limit around 40 to 80 pounds, depending on the brand.

Combination:

  • Forward facing only
  • This seat has a five-point, internal harness that can be used from 41 to 100 pounds.
  • Once the child reaches the upper weight limit of the harness, he or she can begin to use the seat as a booster seat. The seat is then used with a lap or shoulder seat belt.
  • Check the manufacturer’s instructions for weight and height requirements.

Booster Seats:

  • Booster seats are typically used for children aged 4 years up to 8 years of age. They can be used from 40 pounds to 80-120 pounds and a height of 4-foot-9.
  • They boost the child up to help the car’s seat belt fit better.
  • Check your manufacturer’s instructions for weight and height requirements.

Using a Car Seat

  • Remind children to NEVER put the shoulder part of the belt behind them. This will not keep them safe if they are in a car crash.
  • The harness should be at or just above the shoulders.
  • The retainer clip, or chest clip, should be at armpit level or across the nipple line.
  • The harness should be snug around the child. Make sure you snug around the legs first.

Proper Installation is Key

  • Before installing the seat, read both your car and the car seat’s instruction manuals to make sure the seat is installed properly.
  • Make sure to use either the latch system or the seat belt, NEVER BOTH.
  • Make sure your child’s car seat is checked by a certified seat technician.
  • To find a fitting station near you, call your local fire or police station or visit www.nhtsa.gov.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Never purchase a used car seat.
  • Never use anything with the car seat that was not originally sold with the seat. When car seats are tested for safety, they are crash-tested with only the products that come with the seat.
  • Check your state’s booster seat laws to make sure you are following the law.

Check your state’s law to make sure your child is using the right seat for his or her age and weight. Make sure your child is riding in the back seat using a car seat or booster seat with lap and shoulder belt.

Choosing a Car Seat

Combination:

  • A child who is small for his or her age may still need to be in this type of seat.
  • This seat has a five-point harness that can be used up to a certain weight limit (40-65 pounds).
  • It is safer to keep your child in a five-point harness longer than to put him or her in a booster seat too early.
  • Once the child reaches the upper weight limit of the harness, he or she can usually begin to use the seat as a booster seat.
  • The seat is then used with a lap and shoulder seat belt to keep the child secure.

Booster Seat:

  • Booster seats are typically used for children aged 4 years up to 8 years of age. They can be used from 40 pounds to 80-120 pounds and a height of 4-foot-9.
  • They boost the child up to help the car’s seat belt fit better.
  • Check your manufacturer’s instructions for weight and height requirements.
  • There are two types of booster seats: (1) No back: Can be used if there are head rests in the seat where the child sits. (2) High back: Must be used if there are NO head rests in the seat where the child sits. This seat is also nice for children who still like to take naps in the car and it helps to better protect the head and neck while sleeping. 

Using a Car Seat

  • Remind children to NEVER put the shoulder part of the belt behind them. This will not keep them safe if they are in a car crash.
  • The harness should be at or just above the shoulders.
  • The retainer clip, or chest clip, should be at armpit level or across the nipple line.
  • The harness should be snug around the child. Make sure you snug around the legs first.

Proper Installation is Key

  • Before installing the seat, read both your car and the car seat’s instruction manuals to make sure the seat is installed properly.
  • Make sure to use either the latch system or the seat belt, NEVER BOTH.
  • Make sure your child’s car seat is checked by a certified seat technician.
  • To find a fitting station near you, call your local fire or police station or visit www.nhtsa.gov.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Never purchase a used car seat.
  • Never use anything with the car seat that was not originally sold with the seat. When car seats are tested for safety, they are crash-tested with only the products that come with the seat.
  • Check your state’s booster seat laws to make sure you are following the law.

All children younger than 13 years old should ride in the back seat. Airbags are meant for adults and can cause serious injury to children if they sit in the front and are in an accident. Check your state’s law to make sure your child is using the right seat for his or her age and weight.

When children are old enough and large enough to the use the vehicle seat belts alone, they should ALWAYS use both the lap and shoulder belt:

  • The lap belt should fit low on the hips and the shoulder belt should fit across the middle of the child’s shoulder and chest.
  • The child’s knees should bend at the edge of the seat without slouching.
  • Children should be able to sit with their back against the back of the vehicle seat and they should be able to sit this way the entire ride.
  • If a child cannot ride this way, then he or she is probably too small for the seat belt and should use a booster seat.

Additional Car Safety 

  • Do not let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Always check in and around your car and driveway to make sure there are no children around the car while you back out of the driveway.
  • Limit play time in the driveway. Make sure all toys are picked up off the driveway before driving away.
  • Don’t allow children to play unsupervised in parking lots with cars in them.
  • It is best to always hold hands near cars, driveways or when walking on sidewalks. Also, helping young children in and out of the car can help keep them safe.

If you have any questions about this or any other Safety and Injury Prevention Health Topics, contact Trauma Services, 513-636-7865.


Last Updated 10/2013