Car and Booster Seat Safety

Just buckling up isn't enough to keep your infants and children safe on the road.

Use of a car or booster seat reduces the risks of automobile related death and injury for infants and children by almost 70 percent. So, why are motor vehicle collisions still the leading cause of death and injury for infants and children. Because not all parents are using car seats with children, despite laws in all 50 states mandating their use.   According to the National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats, only 47% of children ages 4 to 7 years old were using a belt positioning booster seat in 2011.  Riding in an automobile is the most dangerous part of your child's life, so protect your little ones (and big kids too!) by making sure you use a correctly installed potentially life-saving seat.

If you thought graduating from kindergarten meant no more car seat-think again. Child safety experts recommend that four- to eight-year-olds be restrained with vehicle belt in a booster seat while in the car. Luckily, some of the new big kid boosters come with cool cup holders, lights and speakers! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommend that children remain in a booster seat until they can fit appropriately in a vehicle’s adult lap/shoulder seat belt – generally at 4’9” tall. Serious injuries can result from a lap belt that rests across a child's abdomen or a shoulder strap that crosses his neck. Booster seats help position an adult vehicle seat belt so it properly fits over your child's lap and across her collarbone. This may seem like a hassle when it is your turn for carpool, but the safety benefits more than make-up for the inconvenience.

Putting a child's car seat in your car isn't enough-it must be installed correctly. If you thought that installing your child's car seat was harder than setting up your smartphone, you're not alone. Some car seats fit better in certain cars, so try out the car seat soon after you buy it (if not before) to make sure it's a good fit. Buy a car seat that fits your child, your vehicle, and one you will use correctly every time. If you have questions, call the manufacturer's toll free number or visit their website. It may take longer than you like, but your child is worth the extra few minutes to make sure her car seat is installed correctly.

Vehicle manufacturers have also gotten on board. Since September 2002, all new vehicles are required to have LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). It's an easier car seat attachment system. If you ever need assistance installing a car seat or booster seat, find a certified child passenger safety technician near you that can help.

The most dangerous activity your child does is ride in an automobile. Car seats and booster seats dramatically reduce your child's risk of injury or death in the unfortunate case of a crash. So please buckle her up in a properly installed car seat or belt-positioning booster seat. 

How Can I Make Sure My Car Seat is Properly Installed And My Child Is Properly Secured?

  • Make sure you use the correct seating position (see table below)  and vehicle seat belt. Door mounted or automatic seat belts (move when the door is opened) can NOT be used. Lap belts that only lock during a sudden stop or crash can NOT be used. Always place children under 13 in the back seat.
  • NEVER use a locking clip with a belt-positioning booster seat.
  • Seat belt or LATCH system  must be used as described in the car seat manual and your vehicle’s instruction manual.
  • When installed, your car seat should not move more than one inch forward or to the side   at the belt path.
  • Make sure to thread the car seat harness correctly by reviewing the instructions provided in your car seat instruction manual. For the rear-facing position, the shoulder harness must come through the back of the car seat at or below your child's shoulders. For the forward-facing position, the harness must come through the back of the car seat at or above shoulder level.
  • Harness straps should lie flat across child's body. Straps are made wide to absorb force in a crash. Twists, turns or wrinkles may cause the harness to resist tightening and increase the potential for injury in a crash.
  • Make sure the harness is tight! You should not be able to pinch the harness webbing together at your child's collarbone.
  • Chest clip should be positioned at armpit level
  • Find a certified child passenger safety technician near you. He or she can provide additional education and make sure you have installed your car seat correctly.