are you using it right?
DOT HS 809 245
(revised) March 2005
This booklet may be copied, printed or reproduced
without modification for non-commercial distribution.
ARE YOU USING IT RIGHT?
Four out of five of these children are incorrectly buckled.
Do you know which one is correct?
General Child Seat Use Information
the big Picture
Children ages 12 and under are safest when properly buckled in the rear seat.
(Front Cover)
With the wide variety of child restraint systems, belt
Which child is buckled correctly?
systems and passenger vehicles, correctly install-
If you guessed the one in the middle, then you’re right.
The harness straps are flat, snug and in position, and the
chest clip is at the proper mid-chest, armpit level.
The other photos illustrate some common mistakes that
compromise protection and result in almost 80% of children
being improperly restrained.
Age/Weight
ing a child restraint system can be challenging. This
booklet is designed to help you identify and learn
how to correct common mistakes when install-
■ Upper left: The child is too small to be in a vehicle lap/
shoulder belt. The shoulder belt is under the child’s arm,
and the lap belt is resting on the child’s abdomen.
ing a child restraint and securing your child in the
■ Upper right: Harness straps are too high, loose and the
chest clip is too low.
prove overall protection for your child. Always read
■ Bottom right: Harness straps are loose and twisted and
the chest clip is disconnected.
child restraint and vehicle manufacturers’ instruc-
■ Bottom left: Although the lap belt is positioned correctly,
the vehicle shoulder belt is under the child’s arm.
Always refer to the child seat and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions for proper use and installation instructions.
restraint. Making the right connections will help im-
Harness Slots (3 sets)
Usage Tips
INFANTS
Birth to at least
1 year and
at least 20 lbs.
Infant-Only Seat/rear-facing or
Convertible Seat/used rear-facing
Less than 1 year/
20-35 lbs.
Convertible Seat/used rear-facing
(select one recommended for
heavier infants)
Children may remain in
their rear-facing seats
as long as they haven’t
exceeded the height or
weight requirements.
Seats should be secured to the
vehicle by the safety belts or by
the LATCH system.
Never use in a front seat where an air bag is present.
Tightly install child seat in rear seat, facing the rear.
Child seat should recline at approximately
a 45 degree angle.
Harness straps/slots at or below shoulder level (lower
set of slots for most convertible child safety seats).
Harness straps snug on child; harness clip
at armpit level.
PRESCHOOLERS/TODDLERS
tions for proper use and installation information.
Air Bag Warning Label
Seat Type/Seat Position
1 to 4 years/
at least 20 lbs.
to approximately
40 lbs.
Children may remain in
their forward-facing seats
as long as they haven’t
exceeded the height or
weight requirements.
Convertible Seat/forward-facing or
Forward-Facing Only or Combination
Seat with Harness.
Tightly install child seat in rear seat, facing forward.
Harness straps/slots at or above child’s shoulders
(usually top set of slots for convertible child
safety seats).
Seats should be secured to the
vehicle by the safety belts or by the
LATCH system.
Harness straps snug on child; harness clip
at armpit level.
Harness Chest Clip
5 Pt. Harness System (contacting child at shoulders, hips and groin)
Harness Release Button (red)
Belt Path (not pictured)
See page 6 for an illustration.
Harness Release Mechanism
Pull Strap To Tighten Harness
YOUNG CHILDREN
4 to at least
8 years/unless
they are 4’9”
(57”) tall.
Belt-Positioning Booster
No back or
High Back Belt-Positioning Booster.
NEVER use with lap-only belts—
belt-positioning boosters are always
used with lap and shoulder belts.
Booster used with adult lap and shoulder
belt in rear seat.
Shoulder belt should rest snugly across chest, rests on
shoulder; and should NEVER be placed under the arm
or behind the back.
Lap-belt should rest low, across the lap/upper
thigh area—not across the stomach.
Stay informed about child safety seat recalls; be sure to fill out the registration card that comes with new child seats.
Air Bags
....................
Take a back seat to air bags
An infant in a rear-facing
child restraint should NEVER
be positioned in the path of
a frontal air bag.
■ Child should be in the back seat. Infant seat is
in the air bag deployment zone.
NO!
Air
Deploy Bag
ment Z
one
air bag
deployment
zone
1
the danger zone
■ Rear-facing child is positioned in front of the
passenger air bag deployment zone.
■ Seat is resting on the dash/air bag.
I
■ Child is also incorrectly secured:
Harness chest clip is too low (should be
at armpit level).
N
Harness straps are positioned too high
(should be at, or below, infant’s shoulders).
C
o
NO!
R
R
E
C
Air bags can cause serious
injury or death to children,
especially infants in rearfacing child seats.
T
Rear-Facing Infant Seats
....................
well-connected
■ Harness chest clip is correctly positioned at the child’s mid-chest
or armpit level.
2
■ Harness straps are snug and straight.
■ Rear-facing harness straps should be positioned at, or slightly
below, the child’s shoulders.
A harness chest clip should be positioned
at the child’s mid-chest or armpit level.
This keeps the shoulder straps in the
correct position.
the right angle
C
O
R
R
E
C
T
■ Used with a detachable base, this rear-facing infant
seat is positioned at approximately a 45-degree angle
(check the manufacturer’s recommendation for the
correct angle).
Children are safest when
properly restrained in the
back seat.
....................
too Upright Is Wrong
■ An infant seat sitting too upright can cause
a child’s head to drop forward, cutting
off his/her airway.
Don’t Let The Clip Slip
■ After-market products
have forced the chest
clip to ride too low on
the child’s abdomen.
NO!
3
NO!
I
NO!
O
R
■ Chest clip is not
fastened.
NO!
R
E
■ Children should
never be wrapped
up in a blanket,
thick coat or other
bulky garments before being strapped
into a restraint system. Instead, place
blankets over the internal harness straps.
C
■ Twisted, loose harness
straps compromise
protection.
Take The Wraps Off
N
Resist The Twist
C
T
Rear-Facing Infant Seats
....................
Well-Covered
In Position
■ Blanket is correctly
placed over both
the internal harness
straps and the child.
4
continued
■ Harness straps and
chest clip are correctly positioned.
■ Blanket covering
child is correctly
positioned.
A blanket should
never be placed
between the child
and the harness
straps, or underneath or behind the
child.
■ Rolled towels are
placed on both sides
of the child for proper
position.
Close The Gap
■ A rolled towel or foam noodle at
the crack of the vehicle seat helps
position the infant seat at the
correct 45-degree angle (check
the manufacturer’s recommendation for the correct angle).
■ A washcloth helps
fill the space between the restraint
buckle and the child’s
groin area.
■ Harness straps are
snug and straight.
R
R
E
C
T
On A Roll
C
O
Wash
cloth
rolled
towel
....................
Don’t compromise on size
NO!
■ The seat is too small for the child. His head is at the top of
the seat. Use a convertible seat that can be used rear-facing
to 30-35 lbs.
5
■ Chest clip is positioned too low. (Should be at armpit level).
I
N
Rear-facing infant seats should NEVER be
placed in a forward-facing position.
Babies should ride rear-facing until at least
one year of age and at least 20 pounds.
C
NO!
O
avoid making a wrong turn
■ Rear-facing infant seat is incorrectly placed in
a forward-facing position.
R
■ Safety belt is loose and placed through the
incorrect belt path.
R
E
■ Harness straps are loose.
C
T
■ Carrying handle is in the upright position.
For most child seats, handle should be in
the down position.
Rear-Facing Convertible Seats
....................
Below the Shoulders
■ Harness straps on rear-facing seats should be positioned at,
or slightly below, the child’s shoulders.
6
■ Harness chest clip is in the correct location.
■ Harness straps are snug and straight.
E
■ Child restraint is positioned at approximately
a 45-degree angle (check the manufacturer’s
recommendation for the correct angle).
C
O
R
The Right Angle
R
C
T
For a snug fit, adjust harness
straps so they lie in a straight
line without sagging. Place the
chest clip at the armpit level.
■ Harness straps and chest clip
are correctly positioned on the
child’s body.
■ Child seat is secured using the
correct belt path.
....................
oversized seats minimize safety
■ Infant is much too small for the
convertible seat. Her head is in
front of the shield.
Don’t Take The Wrong Path
■ Safety belt system is placed through
the incorrect belt path.
7
NO!
NO!
incorrect
correct
I
avoid the upright position
N
Straps That ARe Loose Limit Use
C
E
C
T
■ Child is too small for
the restraint.
R
■ Harness straps are
not touching the
child’s shoulders.
NO!
R
■ Chest clip is positioned too low.
It should be at
armpit level.
NO!
■ Restraint is positioned at the incorrect angle causing
the infant to sit too
upright. This could
cause an infant to
drop his/her head,
cutting off the airway.
O
■ Harness straps are
loose, twisted and
positioned too high
above the infant’s
shoulders. Straps
must be snug, lie
flat and be at, or
slightly below, the
infant’s shoulders.
Forward-Facing Convertible Seats
....................
over and Above
■ Harness straps on
forward-facing
restraints should
be positioned at, or
slightly above, the
child’s shoulders.
8
■ Harness straps are
snug and straight.
Children should remain in a
forward facing child restraint
until they are approximately
40 pounds and 4 years of age.
■ Harness chest clip
is positioned at the
child’s mid-chest or
armpit area.
C
O
R
R
E
C
T
Fit To A T-shield
■ T-shield is correctly
positioned, and is
resting snugly on
the child’s thighs.
■ Harness straps are
snug and straight
and are at, or above,
shoulder level.
■ Harness chest
clip is positioned
at the child’s midchest or armpit level.
shield of defense
■ Tray shield is correctly positioned
on the child.
■ Harness straps are
snug and straight
and are at, or above,
shoulder level.
....................
Take Up The slack
NO!
Tighten up the straps
■ Harness straps are
loose and twisted.
■ Harness straps are
loose.
NO!
■ Harness chest clip is
too low and not
connected.
■ Harness chest clip is
too low.
9
I
E
C
T
■ Safety belt system is
placed through the
incorrect belt path.
R
■ Chest clip is too low
and not connected.
R
■ Harness straps are
loose.
NO!
O
Be sure to read
the manufacturer’s
instructions to
determine which
harness slots
should be used.
NO!
■ This infant should
not be forward-facing. Children under
one year and under
20 pounds should
remain rear-facing.
C
■ Harness straps are
not in use.
keep infants rear-facing
N
Stay Connected
Forward-Facing Seats
....................
the right combination
5-Point Harness
■ Combination seats
convert from a 5-point
harness system to a
belt-positioning
booster seat.
■ When a combination
seat is used with a
5-point harness, the
child seat must be
secured to the
vehicle using the
vehicle’s safety belt
system.
10
art to
■ At 40 pounds,
harness straps should
be removed and child
should use the vehicle
lap/shoulder belt.
■ This seat has a flap
in the seat cover to
make threading the
safety belt through
the child seat easier.
■ Some combination
seats may be used
without harness
straps up to 60, 65,
70 or 80 pounds.
built-in protection
C
O
R
R
E
C
T
an overlapping option
■ This looks like a
booster seat. But,
it is a forward-facing
restraint that can be
used with either a
lap or lap/shoulder
belt combination
on a child weighing
30–65 pounds.
■ No longer in
production.
■ An integrated seat
is a built-in option
on some vehicles and
is forward-facing only.
■ Integrated child restraints have a 5-point
harness system.
■ Read the vehicle
owner’s manual for
weight limits.
....................
size up the situation
NO!
■ Child has outgrown the internal harness system of the child restraint.
The harness straps are below the child’s shoulders.
■ Internal harness system should be removed.
11
■ Child should use the seat as a belt-positioning booster with the vehicle
lap/shoulder belt system.
KEEP STRAPS at or ABOVE
THE SHOULDERS
■ Harness straps in a forward-facing restraint system should not be below the child’s shoulders.
I
N
R
E
C
■ Child is too small for the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt. The
child should ride in a child safety seat until 40 lbs., then use
a belt positioning booster seat until at least 8 years old, unless
the child is 4’9” tall.
R
■ The shoulder belt is behind the child and the lap belt is riding up
on the child’s stomach. This can cause serious injury in a crash.
O
don’t move them out of
a safety seat too soon
C
NO!
T
Belt-Positioning Booster Seats
....................
Raise them up
12
■ No-back booster is used to correctly position the child
in a vehicle lap/shoulder belt.
■ Booster seat correctly positions the lap belt across the
child’s upper thighs and the shoulder belt across the chest.
C
O
R
R
E
C
T
High-back and no-back booster seats are
for children who have outgrown child safety
seats, at 40 lbs, and are not large enough
for the vehicle belt system. Children should
use a belt positioning booster seat until
they are at least 8 years old or 4’9” tall.
Always use the lap/shoulder belt
combination with a belt-positioning
booster. Never use a lap belt only.
a good fit
■ High-back booster is used to correctly position the
vehicle lap/shoulder belt on the child; correctly positioning the lap belt across the child’s upper thighs and the
shoulder belt across the chest.
■ A safety belt system may not fit properly on children who
cannot sit all the way back against the vehicle seat with
knees bent comfortably over the edge of the vehicle seat.
....................
no-back booster
NO!
high-back booster
■ Child is incorrectly
positioned with a
vehicle lap belt only
and is at risk for
serious abdominal,
spinal and other
injuries.
■ Always use the lap/
shoulder belt with a
no-back, belt-positioning booster seat.
NO!
■ Child is incorrectly
positioned with a
vehicle lap belt only
and is at risk for
serious abdominal,
spinal and other
injuries.
13
■ Always use the lap/
shoulder belt with a
high-back booster.
I
N
No vehicle safety belt
C
R
R
■ Belt positioning
booster seat must be
used with the
vehicle’s lap and
shoulder belt.
NO!
O
■ Child does not have
vehicle safety belt on.
E
C
T
Safety Belt Systems
....................
maintain good posture
■ This lap/shoulder restraint system fits properly. The child’s back is
straight and her knees are bent at the edge of the vehicle seat.
14
The lap belt should fit snug and low
over the upper thighs. If it rides up on
the abdomen, it could cause serious
injuries in a crash.
keep lap belt low on the upper thighS
C
O
R
R
E
C
T
■ The lap belt is positioned securely on the child’s
upper thighs.
Children should sit straight
against the seat back.
Shoulder belts should fit
snugly across the chest.
....................
no belts behind the back
NO!
avoid add-on products
■ Shoulder belt is
incorrectly positioned behind the
child’s back.
■ Lap belt is too
high on the child’s
stomach.
Never allow a child
to place a shoulder
belt behind his/her
back.
NO!
■ Add-on product has
positioned the vehicle
lap belt too high on
the child’s abdomen.
These types of products are not crashtested by NHTSA.
15
■ Child should be in
a belt-positioning
booster seat.
I
R
R
E
C
T
■ Lap belt is on the
child’s abdomen,
which can cause
serious injury in
a crash.
NO!
O
■ Child is too small
to be in a vehicle
lap/shoulder belt.
C
■ Running the shoulder belt under a
child’s arm can
cause life-threatening injuries in a
crash.
N
A belt under the
arm can cause harm
Things To Remember
....................
put your weight into it
■ Get a tight fit between
the child restraint
system and the
vehicle seat. Put your
weight into the child
restraint system to
compress the vehicle
seat while tightening the safety belt as
much as possible.
16
special needs
■ Some children require special child restraints.
Premature infants, children with respiratory difficulties, orthopedic challenges, and neurological and behavioral problems may require special
child restraints.
lock it up
C
O
R
R
E
C
T
stay informed
■ Information on using vehicle safety belts with
child restraints may be obtained from the
vehicle safety belt’s and the owner’s manual.
■ For proper installation, read both the vehicle
owner’s manual and the child restraint instruction manual.
■ Newer safety belt
systems have
a built-in locking
mechanism.
■ Some vehicle safety
belt systems require
additional hardware,
such as a locking
clip, to lock the child
restraint during normal
driving conditions.
■ Check your vehicle’s
owner’s manual to
determine whether
a locking clip is
needed to secure
the child safety seat.
Things
To
Avoid
..........
The path of least resistance
■ Infant carriers are not designed to protect
infants in a crash. They do not have a belt
path or a label stating they meet federal
motor vehicle safety standards.
..........
the “child crusher” position
■ Child is unrestrained
and should be in the
child restraint in the
back seat. No adult
can safely transport
a child on his/her lap.
NO!
NO!
17
A lap-held,
unrestrained
child is in the
“child crusher”
position.
NO!
O
R
R
E
C
Always use the
correct child
restraint system.
Never use pillows,
books or towels
to boost a child.
Doing so can
compromise your
child’s safety.
C
NO!
■ A child should never be unrestrained in any
vehicle seat, with or without an air bag system.
N
■ Hard toys and
other objects
can become
dangerous
projectiles
during hard
braking and
crash situations. Use soft
toys only.
A lack of restraint
I
avoid child’s play
T
Warning Labels
....................
read the labels
■ Air bag warning
label on the safety
belt system.
■ Air bag warning label
on child restraint
system.
A
I
R
B
A
G
S
18
heed the warning
Air bags have saved the lives
of more than 6,500 people.
However, they work best
when everyone is buckled.
Children under 12 are safest
when properly restrained in
the back seat.
stay advised
■ Air bag warning label on vehicle visor.
LATCH
....................
(lower anchors and tethers for children)
lower anchor attachment
upper tether attachment
19
LATCH is required on most child safety
seats and all vehicles manufactured
after September 1, 2002.
A T T A C H M E N T S
latch child restraint
attachment
Upper tether attachment improves
protection by attaching the top of
the child safety seat more securely
to the vehicle. Older model vehicles
may require special hardware installation. Lower attachments make
installation easier by allowing the
child restraint to be attached to the
vehicle without using the vehicle’s
belt system.
Compatibility Issues
....................
no middle seat
20
■ Some vehicle seats do not have a
middle position that can be used
with a child restraint system.
contoured seat
■ Contours in vehicle
seats can make it
difficult to install a
child restraint
correctly.
V E H I C L E
S E A T S
■ Rear-facing convertible seat is too
upright.
jumpseats
■ Child restraint system
manufacturers prohibit the use of child
restraints in sidefacing vehicle seats
(jumpseats).
seat buckles
■ Buckles on extended webbing may make it
difficult to properly install a child restraint
system.
General Child Seat Use Information
the big Picture
Children ages 12 and under are safest when properly buckled in the rear seat.
(Front Cover)
With the wide variety of child restraint systems, belt
Which child is buckled correctly?
systems and passenger vehicles, correctly install-
If you guessed the one in the middle, then you’re right.
The harness straps are flat, snug and in position, and the
chest clip is at the proper mid-chest, armpit level.
The other photos illustrate some common mistakes that
compromise protection and result in almost 80% of children
being improperly restrained.
Age/Weight
ing a child restraint system can be challenging. This
booklet is designed to help you identify and learn
how to correct common mistakes when install-
■ Upper left: The child is too small to be in a vehicle lap/
shoulder belt. The shoulder belt is under the child’s arm,
and the lap belt is resting on the child’s abdomen.
ing a child restraint and securing your child in the
■ Upper right: Harness straps are too high, loose and the
chest clip is too low.
prove overall protection for your child. Always read
■ Bottom right: Harness straps are loose and twisted and
the chest clip is disconnected.
child restraint and vehicle manufacturers’ instruc-
■ Bottom left: Although the lap belt is positioned correctly,
the vehicle shoulder belt is under the child’s arm.
Always refer to the child seat and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions for proper use and installation instructions.
restraint. Making the right connections will help im-
Harness Slots (3 sets)
Usage Tips
INFANTS
Birth to at least
1 year and
at least 20 lbs.
Infant-Only Seat/rear-facing or
Convertible Seat/used rear-facing
Less than 1 year/
20-35 lbs.
Convertible Seat/used rear-facing
(select one recommended for
heavier infants)
Children may remain in
their rear-facing seats
as long as they haven’t
exceeded the height or
weight requirements.
Seats should be secured to the
vehicle by the safety belts or by
the LATCH system.
Never use in a front seat where an air bag is present.
Tightly install child seat in rear seat, facing the rear.
Child seat should recline at approximately
a 45 degree angle.
Harness straps/slots at or below shoulder level (lower
set of slots for most convertible child safety seats).
Harness straps snug on child; harness clip
at armpit level.
PRESCHOOLERS/TODDLERS
tions for proper use and installation information.
Air Bag Warning Label
Seat Type/Seat Position
1 to 4 years/
at least 20 lbs.
to approximately
40 lbs.
Children may remain in
their forward-facing seats
as long as they haven’t
exceeded the height or
weight requirements.
Convertible Seat/forward-facing or
Forward-Facing Only or Combination
Seat with Harness.
Tightly install child seat in rear seat, facing forward.
Harness straps/slots at or above child’s shoulders
(usually top set of slots for convertible child
safety seats).
Seats should be secured to the
vehicle by the safety belts or by the
LATCH system.
Harness straps snug on child; harness clip
at armpit level.
Harness Chest Clip
5 Pt. Harness System (contacting child at shoulders, hips and groin)
Harness Release Button (red)
Belt Path (not pictured)
See page 6 for an illustration.
Harness Release Mechanism
Pull Strap To Tighten Harness
YOUNG CHILDREN
4 to at least
8 years/unless
they are 4’9”
(57”) tall.
Belt-Positioning Booster
No back or
High Back Belt-Positioning Booster.
NEVER use with lap-only belts—
belt-positioning boosters are always
used with lap and shoulder belts.
Booster used with adult lap and shoulder
belt in rear seat.
Shoulder belt should rest snugly across chest, rests on
shoulder; and should NEVER be placed under the arm
or behind the back.
Lap-belt should rest low, across the lap/upper
thigh area—not across the stomach.
Stay informed about child safety seat recalls; be sure to fill out the registration card that comes with new child seats.
DOT HS 809 245
(revised) March 2005
This booklet may be copied, printed or reproduced
without modification for non-commercial distribution.
ARE YOU USING IT RIGHT?
Four out of five of these children are incorrectly buckled.
Do you know which one is correct?
Was this manual useful for you? yes no
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