The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) designated September 23rd-29th at Child Passenger Safety Week. The primary goal for child passenger safety is to make sure all parents and caregivers are correctly using the right car seats (rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, booster seats) or seat belts for their children’s ages and sizes.
- Selection – Make sure the car seat, booster seat or seat belt is in good condition and appropriate choice based on the child’s age, height, weight and developmental level (Infographic – Choosing the Right Seat). The seat should not be expired, recalled or have missing labels. Register your car seat, so you get timely recall info from the manufacturer.
- Direction – Car seats should not be forward-facing until a child is well past the age of 2. Do not move from rear-facing until a child meets the age, height and weight levels for a forward-facing seat.
- Location – The back seat is the best location for children under the age of 13. This protects kids from injuries caused by air bags, which are designed for adult protection.
- Installation – Always use anchor systems or locking mechanisms on seat belts—it is never recommended to use both. Be sure to use the tether strap on forward-facing seats.
- Harnessing – Using harness systems is crucial in any car seat. They should always be tight and the chest clip properly positioned—use the “pinch test” to test for tightness. Seat belt fit is important as well. Always check that the lap belt is laying snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt is snug across the shoulder and check, not the neck or face.
Child passenger safety laws
- For the past 30 years, all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories have had laws requiring children to be secured in the appropriate car seats or booster seats for their ages and sizes while riding in cars.
- States now require children to ride in appropriate car seats or booster seats until as old as age 9.
- Find your state laws – Safety Laws by State
Local law enforcement departments, fire departments, emergency medical services agencies, public health agencies and healthcare organizations have trained Child Passenger Safety Technicians on staff. If you are unsure, always have a CPST check your seats for proper installation.
Check out the National Highway Traffic Administration website – https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats for complete information on finding the right car seat and installation help. This site provides tools such as a car seat finder based on the size of your child, car seat inspections services based on location and registration steps.