Register for a community car seat check-up event to receive personal assistance from a certified child passenger safety technician at Stanford Children’s Health.
Whether it’s your daily jaunt to school or a long family road trip, the most important aspect of driving with kids in the car is safety. Here’s what you need to know about keeping the little ones protected while you’re in the car.
Safety starts with
Child safety seats can save lives when they are used
correctly. However, statistics show that upwards of 75 percent of car seats are
not installed properly. Even though your car seat may have a plug-and-play feel,
it’s still important to read the instruction manual and make sure you’re
securing the seat correctly. Otherwise, you won’t be giving your (or someone
else’s) child the protection he or she needs in case of a fender bender.
Step up to a booster
seat—when the time is right
Your child will still need a booster seat after outgrowing
the car seat. A booster seat should be used in the back seat so that the safety
belt protects the child effectively. Without a booster seat, the seat belt will
not be protective and can actually hurt your child in an accident.
How will you know when it’s time to make the transition to a
booster? Review the following
questions—if you answer yes to any of them, the time is right.
- Does your child exceed your current car seat’s
height and/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?
Don’t rush to
transition to the next safety seat
It’s important to remember that each time you move from one stage to the next, you’re losing a level of protection. Stanford Children’s Health safety technician Salvador Vargas points out, “It is critical to keep your child in each stage as long as possible. The closer your child gets to the seat belt, the less protected they are in the vehicle.”
The American Academy
of Pediatrics recommends the following:
- Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat for as long as possible. This means using it until they reach the maximum weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that allow children to ride rear-facing for two years or more.
- Once your child faces forward, he or she should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. This means until he or she reaches the height and weight limits for that seat. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.
- When children exceed these limits, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly. This is when a child is at least 4 feet 9 inches tall—usually when he or she is between 8 and 12 years old.
- When children are big enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts.
- All children younger than 13 years old should sit in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.
manual is only part of the story
Reviewing all the
materials that come with your car seat is important because they let you know
how to correctly install the seat, but they will also have other useful
information—especially if you bought
a used car seat.
For example, all car seats have an expiration date. This
date is usually six years from the date of manufacture. If you don’t have that
information, be sure to contact the car seat’s manufacturer to find out its expiration
Another item included with your car seat should be the
warranty card. It is important to fill this out and send it in—that way, you
will be contacted in case there is a recall of your car seat.
Note: You should never buy a used car seat if you do not
know its full history—and never buy
or use a car seat that has been in a crash.
You should not use any products in the car seat that did not come with it from the manufacturer. Car seat fabrics are designed to meet very strict fire safety codes. Fabrics from other products may not be required to meet these codes. In addition, toys or add-on seat parts (like seat belt positioners, mirrors or accessories) sold by a different manufacturer may not be designed to meet the same safety standards and may injure your child in a crash.
The Stanford Children’s Health Childhood Injury Prevention Program is sponsored by Kohl’s Cares.