Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families

One of the most important tasks we have as parents is to keep our children safe when traveling in a vehicle.

Every year thousands of children are killed or injured in car crashes. Proper use of car seats helps keep children safe. But since there are so many different seats available on the market, for many parents this is an overwhelming topic. If you are expecting a child, consider working with a certified passenger safety technician (CPST or CPS technician) before your baby is born, to make sure you get safely home from the hospital.

The type of seat your child needs depends on many factors, including your child’s age and size and developmental needs. Read on to learn more from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about choosing the right car seat for your child.

Read about Car Seat Gap Filler too in here.

Rear-facing infant and toddler seats

The AAP recommends that all babies travel rear-facing from their first trip home from the hospital. All infants and toddlers should ride in rear-facing seats until they have reached the maximum height or weight allowed by the manufacturer of their car safety seat. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more. When babies grow so big that they no longer fit in a

rear- facing seat only, a convertible seat needs to be installed. All parents can benefit from getting help from a CPST to make sure the seat is installed correctly.

Rear-facing seat types:

There are three types of rear – facing seats available: rear – facing only, convertible and all in one. When children reach the maximum weight or height allowed by the manufacturer for their rear-facing seat only, they should continue to ride rear-facing in a convertible or all-in-one seat.

Rear-facing seats only

They are used for babies up to 22 to 35 pounds (9.9 to 15.8 kg) and 26 to 35 inches (66 to 88 cm), depending on the model.

They are small and have handles for carrying them.

They generally come with a base that can be left in the car. The seat slides into and out of the base, so it doesn’t need to be installed every time you use it. Parents can purchase more than one base to attach to other vehicles.

They should only be used for travel (not for sleeping, eating, or any other use outside the vehicle).

Convertible seats (used rear-facing)

They can be used rear-facing and can later be “converted” to forward-facing seats for older children when they exceed the weight, height, or both limits for rear-facing. This means that your child can use the seat longer. However, they take up more space than infant seats, do not include carry handles or separate bases, and are designed to stay in the car.

Many have higher weight (up to 40 to 50 pounds) and height limits than rear-facing seats only, making them an ideal choice for larger babies and young children.

They have a 5-point harness that is attached to the shoulders, hips, and between the legs.

They should only be used for travel (not for sleeping, eating, or any other use outside the vehicle).

All-in-one seats (used rear-facing)

They can be used rear-facing, forward-facing, or as elevators for belt positioning. This means that your child can use the seat longer as he grows.

They are generally larger, so it is important to check that they enter the vehicle facing the rear.

They don’t have the convenience of a carry handle or a separate base; however, they may have higher limits for rear-facing weight (up to 40 or 50 pounds) and height than rear-facing seats only, making them ideal for larger babies and young children.

Installation tips for rear-facing seats:

Always read the vehicle owner’s manual and the car safety seat manual before installing the seat.

When using a rear-facing seat, remember the following tips:

Place the harnesses of your rear-facing seat in the slots located at or below your baby’s shoulders.

Make sure that the harness is snug (that you cannot pinch any slack between your fingers when testing the harness straps on the baby’s shoulders), and that the chest clip is positioned in the center of the chest, at the level of the your child’s armpits.

Make sure the car seat is installed securely with lower anchors or a locked seat belt. If you can move the seat via the belt path more than one inch from side to side or front to back, it is not tight enough.

Never place a rear-facing seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an active airbag in the passenger seat.

If the air bag were to inflate, it would hit the back of the car seat, right where your baby’s head is, and could cause serious injury or death.

If you use a convertible or all-in-one seat in the rear-facing position, make sure the seat belt or lower anchor tie-down is routed in the correct belt path. Consult the car safety seat instructions for added safety.

Make sure the seat is at the correct angle so that your baby’s head does not roll forward. See the instructions for the correct angle for your seat and how to adjust the angle if necessary. All rear-facing seats have built-in angle adjusters or indicators.

Check the car safety seat instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual to find out if the car safety seat can touch the back of the vehicle seat in front of it.

Still having problems? Contact a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) in your area who can help you. If you need help with installation, see the section at the end of this publication for information on how to locate a CPST.