Car Seat Safety: Tips & Guidelines for Keeping Your Kiddos Safe in the Car!

car seat

Okay so I know that I’m a bit extreme when it comes to some things pertaining to M’s safety, but in this day in age what with social media circulating tragic stories, hospitals sending home information with new parents and all the easy access to information on the internet, I feel like people must be living under some sort of rock to not understand car seat safety!!  I mean doesn’t everyone know that babies are safest rear facing and that not only is it the law, but it’s also the safest practice to keep your kids in car seats/buckled up while riding in the car?!  Apparently not!!!  In the past 2 weeks I’ve seen 2 instances where kids were’t safely buckled in: in one situation a mom was holding her child on her lap while driving…and the little girl could have only been about 3 at most!  In the other situation, another little girl, this time probably 5 or 6, was walking back and forth between the middle row of seats and 3rd row in the van in front of me…while they were driving down the road!  And then on a 16 and Pregnant episode one of the girls had her 8 month old baby forward facing in his car seat!!!  What is wrong with people?!

So, I’ve done a little research and put together some information just in case you are looking for guidelines to follow for keeping your little ones safe in the car!

Child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers, ages 1-4.” -National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Car Seat Guidelines Based on Age & Size

It is important to note that car seat laws vary state by state, but in my state the law reads as follows:

-A child under 1 year old who weighs less than 20 lbs. must be secured in a rear-facing child restraint system.
-A child under 6 years old must be secured in a safety seat or booster seat. A seat belt alone is not appropriate.
-Children between 6 years old and 11 years old must be secured in a child restraint system or by a safety belt.
-All children under 18 years old must wear a seat belt.

However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should “keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. It also advises that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age.” – See more at:

A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body.  For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.” -Dr. Dennis Durbin, MD, FAAP


Types of Car Seats 

Rear facing – Birth-2 yrs (or longer) – it is best to keep your child rear facing for as long as possible.  Children should remain rear facing until they outgrow the weight or height restrictions for rear facing in your particular car seat as established by your car seat manufacturer.

Forward facing – 2 yrs (or older)-7 yrs – once your child has outgrown the weight or height restrictions for your rear facing car seat they should be in a forward facing, 5 point harness car seat.  They should remain this way until they reach the weight or height restrictions for your car seat.  At this point they will move into a booster seat.

Booster seat – 5 yrs (or older) – 12 yrs – children should be secured in a booster seat using your car’s seat buckle once they have outgrown the weight or height restrictions for your forward facing car seat.  They should remain this way until they are big enough that your car’s seat belt fits them properly. “For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.” (Parents Central)

Remember: ALL children under the age of 18 should ride in the backseat at all times safely secured by a car seat or seat belt.

New research has found children are safer in rear-facing car seats. A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention showed that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing. -American Academy of Pediatrics

Tips for Keeping Your Kiddos Safe

  • Have your car seat installed by a professional!  “While 96 percent of parents and caregivers believe their child safety seats are installed correctly, research shows that 7 out of 10 children are improperly restrained.” (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)  Call your local hospital, police station or use Google to find certified car seat installation experts in your area.
  • Make sure your child is secured correctly in their car seat.  Shoulder straps should be over their shoulders starting slightly below the shoulders in the back, chest clips should be level with their armpits and the straps should be tight enough so as to not be able to pinch any material between your fingers.


  • Don’t use after market products on your car seat.  This includes head supports, vehicle seat covers, shoulder strap cushions, etc.  These things aren’t crash tested with your particular car seat, therefore your child might not be as safe when they’re being used.
  • Don’t bundle your child when they’re in their car seat!!!  This is a big one, especially here in the Midwest where it gets cold!  Rather than bundling up your babe, you’re better off to warm up the car and dress them in warm, thin clothing covered with blankets.  Or, you can safely buckle your child in and then put their arms through their coat backwards so that it is covering the front of them.  One last idea would be to make (or buy) a blanket poncho that can go over their head but be flipped up in the back so as to not be under the child/straps.  (Side note – this is what I did… it was super easy to make using a blanket that we already had!)  In order to allow your child to fit in their car seat with a big bulky coat on, you’ll have to loosen their straps.  In the event of a car accident, the coat will compress leaving an unsafe amount of space between your baby and the straps of their car seat.


  • In the event of a car accident, replace your car seat immediately!  Many people don’t realize that even the smallest fender bender can compromise the safety of your child’s car seat.  No matter how big or small of an accident that you get into, it is important to replace the car seat!  If you turn in a claim to your insurance company, most of the time they will cover the cost of the replacement car seat.
  • Check your car seat’s expiration date.  Did you know that your car seat expires??  It is important to pay attention to the expiration of your car seat to ensure your child’s safety.  Expiration dates vary depending on the car seat manufacturer and can typically be found on the car seat itself.  If not, there should be a manufacture date and you can look on your seat’s manufacturer website to determine the length of time before your seat expires.


For more information on car seat safety, visit the following websites!

American Academy of Pediatrics

Parents Central

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


The Car Seat Lady


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