Child Passenger Safety Tips
Did You Know?
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children.
- In 2018, approximately one-third (33%) of children under 13 killed in passenger vehicles were not restrained in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts.
- From 2014 to 2018, there were 1,158 “tweens” (8 to 12 years old) killed in passenger vehicles.
- Children should ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
Step right up and test your knowledge of Children in Hot Cars and Car Seat Safety! Take the 10 minute quizzes below.
- Booster Seat
- Car Seat's History
- Check the Label
- Check Your Car Seat
- Choose the Right Direction
Time for a Booster Seat
Take the next step to a booster seat when you answer "yes" to any of these questions:
- Does your child exceed the car seat’s height or weight limits?
- Are your child’s shoulders above the car seat’s top harness slots?
- Are the tops of your child’s ears above the top of the car seat?
- If the car seat with a harness still fits and your child is within the weight and height limits, continue to use it until it is outgrown. It provides more protection than a booster seat or seat belt for a small child.
Know Your Car Seat’s History
- Buy a used car seat only if you know its full crash history. That means you must buy it new or from someone you know, not from a thrift store or over the internet.
- Once a car seat has been in a crash, or is expired or broken, it needs to be replaced.
- Look at the label on your car seat to make sure it is appropriate for your child’s age, weight, and height.
- Your car seat has an expiration date - usually around six years. Find and double-check the label to make sure it is still safe. Cut the car seat straps before you dispose of the seat so it cannot be reused.
- Seventy-three % of car seats are not used or installed correctly, so before you hit the road, check your car seat. Here’s a quick car seat checklist to help you out. It takes only 15 minutes.
- Learn how to install your car seat for free. Safe Kids hosts car seat inspection events across the country where certified technicians can help make sure your car seat is properly installed. They also serve in fixed locations called inspection stations during specific days and times in some communities. You may find an inspection station with certified technicians at a General Motors dealership, a hospital or even a fire station. They will teach you so that you can always be sure your car seat is used correctly. Find a Safe Kids car seat checkup event where we use only certified technicians near you.
Choose the Right Direction: Rear or Forward-Facing
- For the best protection, keep your baby in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible - usually until about 2 years old. You can find the exact height and weight limit on the side or back of your car seat. Kids who ride in rear-facing seats have the maximum protection for the head, neck and spine. It is especially important for rear-facing children to ride in a back seat away from the airbag.
- When your children outgrow a rear-facing seat around age 2, move them to a forward-facing car seat. Keep the seat in the back and make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors. Use the top tether until your child weighs 40 pounds. After February 2014, your car seat labels will tell you exactly how much your child can weigh and still use the lower anchors and top tether. Until then, check both your child restraint and vehicle manuals to see if you can go beyond the weight limit for the top tether. If they both agree to a higher weight, it is fine to follow their directions.
- Kids can remain in some forward-facing car seats until they are 65 to 80 pounds depending on the car seat limits. Check the seat label to find the exact measurements. Discontinue use of the lower anchors or top tether when your child reaches the limits set by your car seat and car manufacturers. You must read the manual to know about those limits. Not to worry: You will then switch to a seat belt that goes through the car seat at that time. Seat belts are made to protect very heavy adults as well as children who have outgrown a booster seat.
Make Sure Your Car Seat is Installed Correctly
- Inch Test - Once your car seat is installed, give it a good tug at the base where the seat belt goes through it. Can you move it more than an inch side-to-side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
- Pinch Test - Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check your car seat manual). With the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you are good to go.
- For both rear- and forward-facing child safety seats, use either the car’s seat belt or the lower anchors and for forward-facing, the top tether to lock the car seat in place. Do not use both the lower anchors and seat belts at the same time. They are equally safe- so pick the one that gives you the best fit and the manual recommends.
- If you are having even the slightest trouble, questions, or concerns, certified child passenger safety technicians are able to help or even double-check your work. Visit a certified technician to make sure your car seat is properly installed. Find a technician or car seat checkup event near you.
Be Wary of Toys
Toys can injure your child in a crash, so be extra careful to choose ones that are soft and will not hurt your child. A small, loose toy can be dangerous and injure your baby in a crash. Secure loose objects and toys to protect everyone in the car.