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Keeping Your Kids Safe in the Car
Always Use a Car Seat
Types of Car Seats
- Rear-facing seats (infant seats and rear-facing convertible seats)—The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends rear-facing seats for all children until they reach age two or until they meet the highest height and weight limits for the seat.
- Front-facing convertible seats and other front-facing car seats—According to the AAP, these seats can be used once a child has outgrown the height and weight limits for the rear-facing seats. There should be a harness used with the front-facing seat.
- Belt-positioning booster seats—These types of seats allow the child to sit higher up so that the adult seat belt can be used. The AAP recommends that the booster seat is used until the child can fit in a seatbelt without a booster (4 feet, 9 inches [1.45 meters]) and age (8-12 years old).
Proper Use of Car Seats
- The child should be sitting all the way back in the car's seat.
- The child’s knees should bend comfortably at the edge of the seat.
- The shoulder belt should cross at the center of the child's chest and shoulder.
- The lap belt should fit across the child's upper thigh, not stomach.
- The child should be able to remain seated comfortably like this for the entire trip.
Other Safety Considerations
- Never Place Rear-Facing Infant Seats or Children Under 13 in the Front Seat—If it makes you nervous to not be able to see your baby's face, allow enough time so that you can pull off the road periodically to check on your baby, or consider purchasing a car seat mirror designed specifically to allow you to see the baby by looking in your rear-view mirror.
- Never Leave a Child Unattended in the Car—Even if you are running into the store for just a second, take your child with you.
- Do Not Use the Car Seat Outside of the Car—Car seats are designed to be securely positioned in a vehicle. Falls can happen when a baby is placed in a car seat outside of the car. For example, if the seat is placed on the ground or on a table, the baby could fall and be seriously injured.
- Always Use an Approved Car Seat—And make sure your car seat is compatible with your car.
- Periodically Check for Recall Notices on Car Seats—You can check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website for recall notices.
- Know When to Replace Your Baby's Car Seat—Do not use a car seat that is too old. Contact the seat's manufacturer to learn how long it recommends using the seat. Do not use a seat that has been in a moderate or severe crash.
- Use Caution When Taking Your Child Out of the Car Seat—Do not take your child out of the car seat while the car’s engine is running or the car is parked where it could be stuck by another vehicle. This holds true even if your child is fussing or crying.
American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org
National Safe Kids Campaign http://www.safekids.org
Canada Safety Council http://www.safety-council.org
Transport Canada http://www.tc.gc.ca
Boosters are for big kids! SafetyBeltSafe USA website. Available at: http://www.carseat.org/Boosters/630.pdf. Updated July 5, 2010. Accessed December 6, 2012.
Buckle Up Boston. Boston Public Health Commission website. Available at: http://www.bphc.org/programs/cib/healthyhomescommunitysupports/injuryprevention/buckleupboston/Pages/Home.aspx. Accessed December 6, 2012.
Car Safety. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS. Accessed December 6, 2012.
Car safety seats: Information for Families 2014. American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx. Updated February 21, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2014.
Car Seats and Booster Basics. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Patents Central website. Available at: http://www.safercar.gov/parents/RightSeat.htm. Accessed December 6, 2012.
Child passenger safety. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/CPS/. Accessed December 6, 2012.
Child Passenger Safety Laws Governors Highway Safety Association website. Available at: http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/childsafety%5Flaws.html. Updated January 2013. Accessed January 7, 2013.
Traffic Safety Facts 2008 Data: Children. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Available at: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811157.pdf. Accessed December 6, 2012.
10/5/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Parikh SN, Wilson L. Hazardous use of car seats outside the car in the United States, 2003-2007. Pediatrics. 2010;126(2):352-357.
3/28/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, Durbin DR. Pediatrics. 2011;127(4):788-793.
- Reviewer: Brian P. Randall, MD
- Review Date: 01/2013
- Update Date: 03/18/2014