Child Safety Seats


Why Child Safety Seats?

Is Your Child At Risk?

Every day, children sustain serious injuries and die in motor vehicle crashes. Many of these injuries and deaths can be avoided with the correct use of child safety seats and safety belts. However, many adults are unaware they are using the safety restraint incorrectly, thereby placing their chid at risk. Many safety experts believe that between 80 percent to 90 percent of child safety seats are installed and/or used incorrectly.

Because children are not small adults, they need special protection when traveling in motor vehicles. Their bodies are very different from ours. Their skulls are more fragile, theirs heads are proportionately larger, their rib cage is thinner, and they're shorter.

Types of Child Safety Restraints

Infant Seats. Infant seats are designed for babies from birth until at least 20 pounds and one year of age. They must ride rear-facing in their safety seats until they are at the appropriate size/age to move to ...

Convertible Safety Seats. These seats convert from rear-facing for infants to forward-facing for toddlers weighing at least 20 pounds. Children should remain in a forward-facing seat from 20 pounds until they reach approximately 40 pounds and four years of age. Then they should graduate to ...

Booster Seats. These seats are used as a transition to safety belts by older kids who have clearly outgrown their convertible seat and are not quite ready for the vehicle belt system.

Safety Belts. When a child is old enough and large enough to "fit" an adult safety belt, they can be moved out of a booster seat. To "fit" a safety belt properly, the lap belt should fit snugly and properly across the upper thighs and the shoulder strap should cross over the shoulder and across the chest.

How Child Restraints Work

Babies, toddlers and young children are physiologically different from adults, teenagers and even older children. Because of their small stature and because their musculoskeletal systems are not fully developed, seat belts cannot provide a proper and safe means of restraining young children in the event of a crash. Safety seats are engineered to provide the added protection children require.

Child safety restraints provide a "ride-down" benefit during rapid deceleration. If properly installed, child restraints work to allow the child's body to stop as the vehicle is slowing, reducing the forces on the child's body and preventing contact with hard surfaces inside the vehicle, with other occupants, the road, or other vehicles.

Child safety seats also act to spread crash forces over a broad area of the body, thereby reducing forces on any particular part of the body, and distributing these forces to the strongest parts of the skeleton (hips, back and shoulders).

What You Can Do ...

Never place an infant in a rear-facing child safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag. The force of the deploying air bag will hit the seat (because of its close proximity to the dashboard) and can seriously injure or kill an infant. Remember: All infant seats must be rear-facing, so the only safe place to install it is in the back seat.

Children should ride properly restrained in the back seat whenever possible. Children are much safer (approximately 29 percent) the farther they are from the point of impact -- most commonly a frontal crash.

It is critical that both the shoulder and lap portion of the safety belt be used. However, if the best system does not fit properly the child should be secured in a child restraint.

If a child must be seated in the front seat, always move the vehicle seat as far back as possible (particularly with a passenger-side air bag).

Be a role model. Always buckle up.

Child Seat Compatibility and Installation

Always read both the vehicle owner's manual and the car seat instructions carefully when deciding which car seat to use and how to properly install it. Installation can be difficult due to the variety of seat belt configurations, vehicle seat designs and child safety seat designs. Check your car manual to find out if you need to use a locking clip or other equipment to properly secure the seat.

The best car seat is the one that fits the child, fits the vehicle and is one you will be able to install and use correctly every time.

A correctly installed safety seat is one that is held firmly in place by the vehicle seat belt. It should not be possible to move the safety seat around.

Remember: The harness holds the child in the car seat and the vehicle belt holds the car seat in the car. Be certain both are secured properly.

If you have questions -- ask for help.

Frequently Asked Questions on Child Passenger Safety

Q: I feel I should always keep an eye on my infant, and I keep hearing that the safest place to put my infant is in the back seat. But if the seat has to be installed rear-facing, I can't see her! What should I do?

A: This is a concern of many parents. However, the bottom line is that the back seat is the safest place for a child of any age to ride. Drivers who travel alone should allow plenty of time to pull off the road if they feel the need to periodically check on the baby. You may want to compare your child traveling to your child sleeping. You probably don't watch your baby sleep all through the night. A healthy baby properly secured in a safety seat should not need constant watching.

Q: My children are at ages where they get restless in their car seats and try to move around. I find it very distracting. Plus they fight with each other. I think it's safer to put one of them up front where I can keep an eye on him.

A: No. The safest place is in the rear seat properly buckled. It is critical not to give in to a child's "growing pains" while traveling in a motor vehicle. Bring along some soft toys to keep them occupied while properly buckled up and seated in the back seat. This may sound difficult, but never take short cuts when it comes to children's safety.

Q: I have trouble securing my child safety seat in my car. It doesn't seem to work well with my seat belt system. What am I doing wrong?

A: You may not be doing anything wrong. Some child safety seats and some vehicle belt systems are not compatible. The most important thing to do is read the instructions that come with the child seat (and keep them handy at all times) and all sections in the vehicle manual that discuss safety seat installation. Never undertake "make shift" measures. Your child should fit securely in the safety seat and the safety seat should fit securely in the vehicle seat. If it doesn't, contact the car seat manufacturer.

Q: I have three children and my back seat only seats two. I transport all three kids to school and other activities. I've heard that children belong in the rear seat. What can I do?

A: You're right. The safest place is the rear seat. However, there are times when placing all children in the rear isn't possible (as in your case where there aren't enough belts for all three children). If you must seat a child in the front seat, usually the oldest/largest child would be the most appropriate. If your child is the proper size, make sure that the lap and shoulder belts are properly fastened and move the vehicle seat back as far as possible away from the dashboard.

NOTE: If your vehicle has a passenger-side air bag, the only place for a rear-facing infant seat to be installed is in the rear seat.