One-Minute Car Seat Safety Check-up

One-Minute Car Seat Safety Check-up
One-Minute Car Seat Safety
Using a car safety seat correctly makes a big difference. Even the “safest” seat may
not protect your child in a crash unless it is used correctly. So take a minute to
check to be sure…
A. Infant-only seat
B. seat
Rear-facing convertible
C. Convertible
seat turned
to face forward
Does your car have a passenger air bag?
• An infant in a rear-facing seat should NEVER be placed in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger air bag.
• The safest place for all children to ride is in the back seat.
• If an older child must ride in the front seat, move the vehicle seat as far back as possible, buckle the child
properly, and make sure he stays in the proper position at all times.
Is your child facing the right way for weight, height, and age?
• Infants should ride facing the back of the car until they have reached at least 1 year of age AND weigh at least
20 pounds (A and B).
• A child who weighs 20 pounds or exceeds the height limit for the car safety seat before he reaches 1 year of
age should continue to ride rear-facing in a car safety seat approved for use at higher weights and heights in
the rear-facing position.
• A child who weighs more than 20 pounds AND is older than 1 year of age may face forward (C). It is safest
for a child to ride rear-facing until she reaches the top weight or height allowed by the seat for use in the rearfacing position.
• Once your child faces forward, she should remain in a car safety seat with a full harness until she reaches the
top weight or height allowed by the seat. When changing the seat for use in the forward-facing position, you
must make adjustments. Check your car safety seat instructions.
Is the harness snug; does it stay on your child’s shoulders?
• Harnesses should fit snugly against your child’s body. Check the car safety seat instructions on how to adjust
the straps.
• The chest clip should be placed at armpit level (C) to keep the harness straps on the shoulders.
Has your child grown too tall or reached the top weight limit for the forwardfacing seat?
• Children are best protected in a car safety seat with a full harness until they reach the top weight or height limit of
the car safety seat.
• Once your child outgrows his car safety seat, use a belt-positioning booster seat to help protect him until he is
big enough to use a seat belt properly. A belt-positioning booster seat is used with a lap and shoulder belt (D).
• Shield boosters: Although boosters with shields may meet current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for
use by children who weigh 30 to 40 pounds, on the basis of current published peer-reviewed literature, the
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend their use.
• A seat belt fits properly when the shoulder belt crosses the chest, the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs,
and the child is tall enough so that when he sits against the vehicle seat back, his legs bend at the knees and his
feet hang down.
Does the car safety seat fit correctly in your vehicle?
• Not all car safety seats fit in all vehicles.
• When the car safety seat is installed, be sure it does not move side-to-side or toward the front of the car.
• Read the section on car safety seats in the owner’s manual for your car.
Is the seat belt in the right place and pulled tight?
• Route the seat belt through the correct path (check your instructions to make sure), kneel in the seat to press it
down, and pull the belt tight.
• A convertible seat has 2 different belt paths, 1 for use rear-facing and 1 for use forward-facing.
• Check the owner’s manual for your car to see if you need to use a locking clip. Check the car safety seat
instructions to see if you need a tether to keep the safety seat secure.
D. Belt-positioning
booster seat
Can you use the LATCH system?
• Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) is a new anchor system that allows you to install a car safety
seat without using a seat belt.
• Starting in model year 2002, most new vehicles and all new car safety seats will have these attachments to secure
the car safety seat in the vehicle.
• Unless both the vehicle and the car safety seat have this new system, seat belts will still be needed to secure the
car safety seat.
Do you have the instructions for the car safety seat?
• Follow them and keep them with the car safety seat. You will need them as your child gets bigger.
• Be sure to send in the registration card that comes with the car safety seat. It will be important in case your car
safety seat is recalled.
Has your child’s car safety seat been recalled?
• Call the Auto Safety Hotline or check the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) Web
site for a list of recalled seats. (See below.)
• Be sure to make any needed repairs to your car safety seat.
Has your child’s car safety seat been in a crash?
• If so, it may have been weakened and should not be used, even if it looks fine.
• If you must use a secondhand car safety seat, first check its full history. Do not use a car safety seat that has been
in a crash, has been recalled, is too old (check with the manufacturer), has any cracks in its frame, or is missing
parts. Make sure it has a label from the manufacturer and instructions.
• Call the car safety seat manufacturer if you have questions about the safety of your seat.
Ask your pediatrician, a local safety group, or the NHTSA. A certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician can
help you use your child’s car safety seat correctly. On the NHTSA Auto Safety Hotline or Web site, you may give your
zip code to find the nearest CPS Technician.
The NHTSA Auto Safety Hotline
888-Dash-2-Dot (888/327-4236) (8:00 am to 10:00 pm ET, Monday through Friday)
The AAP offers more in the brochure Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families. Ask your pediatrician about this
brochure or visit the AAP Web site at
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is not a testing or standard-setting organization, this guide sets forth the AAPs recommendations based
upon the peer-reviewed literature available at the time of its publication and sets forth some of the factors that parents should consider before selecting and using
a car safety seat.
The information contained in this publication should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in
treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 57,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists,
and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.
American Academy of Pediatrics
PO Box 747
Elk Grove Village, IL 60009-0747
Web site —
Copyright ©2002
American Academy of Pediatrics
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