Car Seat Safety
Using a safety seat correctly makes a big difference. A child safety seat may not protect your child in a crash if it isn't used correctly and installed in the vehicle properly. Cars were made for adults, therefore children do not fit in a seatbelt properly until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.
- Class: Sign up for a car-safety seat class. English and Spanish classes available. Call (602) 230-CARE (2273) to register.
- Read: Learn more from our car seat safety Frequently Asked Questions.
- Video: Cardon Children's Medical Center Injury Specialist Tracey Fejt, RN, shows you how to install car seats and keep kids safe on the road.
Car seat guidelines
General installation instructions:
- Buckle children under the age of 13 in the back seat. Airbags can kill or seriously injury children, even if you have a new vehicle with an airbag that turns off and on.
- Never place a rear-facing child safety seat in the front seat where there is a passenger air bag.
- Car seats have expiration dates -- do not use the seat past that date.
- If the seat has been in a crash it may be unsafe to use it again if one or more of the following happens:
- someone was injured in the crash
- the door by the child safety seat was damaged
- airbags were deployed
- the vehicle had to be towed from the crash
- you can see damage to the car seat
- When a car seat is correctly installed it should not move more than 1 inch side to side or front to back at the belt path.
- Car seats can be installed using the seat belt or Lower Anchors and Tether for Children (LATCH). Use whichever works best for your seat and your vehicle.
- Read the instructions that come with the car seat.
- Read the vehicle owner's manual, especially the seatbelt and car seat installation section and air bag warnings.
Infants: You can use an infant or convertible seat as long as the seat fits your child’s weight and height and the seat fits in your vehicle. Children should ride rear facing in their car seat until 2 years of age or the upper weight limit of the seat -- 30 to 35 pounds in most cases with convertible seat and some infant seats. When rear facing, the car seat absorbs the crash forces. If you turn the seat around, the child absorbs the crash forces. Children cannot be turned around before they turn 1 and weigh 20 pounds.
- Harness straps should be at or below the infant's shoulders
- The harness straps should be snug – you should be unable to pinch the harness at the shoulders. This is your baby's seatbelt -- keeping it snug will keep the infant safe!
- The harness chest clip must be at the infant's armpit level. This clip will position the harness straps to stay over the baby's shoulders before a crash.
- Recline a rear-facing seat at approximately a 45-degree angle for newborns and then moved to 30-45 degree angle at 5 to 6 months when they have stronger neck muscles; refer to instructions on the child seat.
Toddlers: Children should ride rear facing until they are 1 year old or weigh 20 pounds; it is recommended they ride rear facing until they are 2 years old or outgrow the weight limit on their seat.
Harness seat weight limits vary depending on the seat. Common weight limits are 40, 65, and 80 pounds.Harness straps should be at or above the child's shoulders.
- Harness straps should be threaded through the top slots of most safety seats. Check the instructions.
- Harness straps should be snug. You should not be able to pinch the harness at the shoulders. Remember- it is the baby's seatbelt!
- Harness chest clip should be at the child's armpit level. It positions the harness straps on the child's shoulders, so in a crash the child stays in the safety seat.
- Place a forward-facing seat in an upright position
- Use a top tether strap when installing your seat, whether you are using the seat belt or the lower anchors. This helps prevent the child's head from moving forward. refer to your vehicle's owner manual and instructions.
Booster seats: Children should stay in a full harness until they have outgrown the harness; all harnesses go to at least 40 pounds. Children that have outgrown their car seat should ride in the back seat in a belt-positioning booster seat. A booster seat uses the adult lap and shoulder belt. Booster seats should be used until the adult lap and shoulder belt fit the child properly -- when they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall.
- Belt-positioning boosters can only be used with both lap and shoulder belts across the child. The shoulder belt should be snug against the child's chest, crossing at the collarbone. The lap belt should lay low across the child's upper thighs.
- Boosters are used for that "in-between" stage of being too big for a baby seat and not quite big enough for the adult seat belt.
- Booster seats should be used until the child can is approximately: 4'9" tall or until they pass the five step test.
Five-step test: If there is a "no" answer to any of these questions, the child needs a booster.
- Sitting tall with entire back touching seat?
- Knees bend comfortably at edge of seat?
- Belt across the shoulder between arm/neck?
- Lap belt touching tops of legs?
- Can the child sit like this for the entire trip?
Seatbelts: If all the answers to the five-step test are “yes” then the child can sit in both lap and shoulder belts. The shoulder belt should be snug against the child's chest, crossing at the collarbone. The lap belt should lay low across the child's upper thighs. Never allow the child to put the shoulder belt behind his back or under his arm. Remember, kids are not allowed in the front seat until they are 13, as airbags can cause death or serious injuries.
Questions on car seat safety? e-mail us!