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Child Safety Seat Basics

Nearly 80% of child safety seats are used incorrectly! The two minutes you take each time you buckle up your child correctly can save their life. The Utah Safety Council offers car seat inspections to help with your children's safety, by appointment only. Please contact the Home and Community Program Manager at 801.746.SAFE (7233) or fill out our online form to schedule your appointment. 

As part of Child Passenger Safety Week there will be several checkpoints held throughout the state to help you properly install your car seat. - Learn More

Learn about the different child safety seats for different ages.

 

 

Infants

For the best possible protection all infants should be restrained rear-facing in the back seat. There are two types of rear facing car seats: infant seats and convertible seats. Generally, infant seats are designed for children from 5 pounds to about 20 pounds and convertible seats are designed for children from 5 pounds to about 35 pounds rear-facing.
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain rear facing as long as possible until they have reached the maximum height and weight limits of the car seat (check your seat's manufacturer instructions for exact weight limits) or at about age two. At minimum, children less than one year and less than 20 pounds must be restrained rear-facing in the car.
 
  • Children are 5.32 times safer riding rear-facing into the second year of life.
  • Children under age 2 are 75% less likely to sustain a serious injury when rear-facing, regardless of the direction of the crash (frontal impact, side impact, etc).
  • Lower extremity injuries in crashes are less common than 1/1,000 children. Whether the child is rear-facing or forward-facing, the risk of lower extremity injury remains the same.
  • Some infants will reach the weight or height limit of the infant seat, but are still not ready to face forward in the vehicle. In this situation, the child should be restrained rear facing in a convertible seat designed to hold children with higher weights rear facing. More and more convertible seats are being made to accommodate higher weight limits rear-facing. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Adjust the seat so that the child is reclining at about a 30-45 degree angle. Each car seat will have an angle indicator that will help you determine the correct angle for that seat.
  • Harness straps should be in the slots at or below the infant's shoulders and should fit snugly against the child.
  • Place the retainer clip at armpit level to keep the harness strap on the baby's shoulders.
  • Never place an infant in a front seat with a passenger-side airbag.
  • Harness baby in snugly and then cover the baby with a blanket.
  • Make sure the seat is installed tightly. A child safety seat should not move more than one inch side to side at the belt path.
  • Always use a federally approved child safety seat.
  • Watch this short video about rear facing car seats.

Other Considerations:

  • Any additional car seat accessories such as head supports or harness covers should be purchased from the car seat manufacturer only.
  • If your infant needs some extra support to prevent slouching or sliding, you may place rolled cloth diapers or a thin blanket on both sides of your infant’s body or between his or her legs. Keep in mind it is never okay to place rolled blankets/diapers above mid-ear level, the towel could slip behind your child’s head causing the head to move forward, cutting off the infant’s airway.
  • Children should never be restrained while wearing bulky clothing. Though the harness may seem tight on the child, bulky clothing can create a dangerous space between the harness and your child in the event of a crash.
  • Never leave children unattended in or around the vehicle.
  • Do not place any sort of padding behind your child while restrained in a car seat. If an insert did not come with the car seat, do not use it.
 

Toddlers

When children outgrow their rear-facing car seat they should be restrained in a forward facing car seat in the back seat (at a minimum age of 1 year and 20 pounds).

  • Most forward-facing car seats are for children between 20 and 40 pounds. More and more forward-facing car seats are being made with higher harness weight limits, some up to 65 pounds. Read the manufacturer's instructions to check your seat's guidelines.
  • A forward-facing seat must have the harness straps in the harness slots at or slightly above the child's shoulders and should fit snugly against the child.
  • Place the retainer clip at armpit level to keep the harness strap on the child's shoulders.
  • Built-in safety seats are federally approved and safe for children over 20 pounds and 12 months (make sure to check manufacturer instructions for exact age, weight and height requirements).
  • Always make sure the seat is installed tightly. A child safety seat should not move more than one inch side to side at the belt path.
  • Watch this short video about forward facing car seats.
 

Other Considerations:

  • Restrain children in a booster if he or she weighs more or is taller than the rear-facing car seat allows.
  • Do not place your child in a backless booster until at least the age of four and 40 pounds. If your child is still drifting off to sleep and resting his or her head on the window, keep your child restrained in a booster seat with the back attached.

 

Booster Seats

  • When children outgrow their forward-facing car seats, generally around age 4 and 40 pounds, they should be restrained in a booster seat.
  • Booster seats are for children between 40 and 100 pounds and under 4'9” tall. Always check the manufacturer's instructions for the height and weight requirements for your particular seat.
  • In Utah, children under age 8 are required by law to be in a child safety seat or a booster seat. Learn more about this Utah Law.
  • Booster seats are designed to be used with a lap and shoulder belt combination. Do not use a booster seat with a lap belt only seat belt.
  • There are two types of booster seats: high-back belt positioning boosters and no-back belt positioning boosters. High-back boosters are generally used for children between 30 and 100 pounds and must be used if the vehicle has a low seat back to provide head protection for the child. No-back boosters are typically used for children 40 to 100 pounds. Always check the manufacturer's instructions for your booster seat's height and weight requirements as they may vary from seat to seat.
  • Watch this short video about booster seats.

Other Considerations:

  • It is recommended that children stay properly restrained in the back seat until the age of 13.
  • Turn off the air bags in front of young passengers and move the seat as far back as possible if they are riding in the front seat.
  • Unused booster seats can become projectiles and cause severe injuries in the event of a car crash. If your child is not riding in the booster seat, buckle it securely in place.

 

Older Children

Children are 38% more likely to wear their seat belt if the driver is restrained. (Click it Utah) As a caregiver, it is your responsibility to lead by example.

  • When children have outgrown their booster seats (When they have reached 4'9'' tall, usually between ages 8 and 12) they should always use a safety belt.
  • Never allow a child to put the shoulder belts behind their back or under their arm.
  • All children 12 and under should be restrained in the back seat.
  • Watch this short video about children and seat belts.
Use a booster seat with the vehicle lap AND shoulder safety belts until your child passes the Safety Belt Fit Test.
 

Safety Belt Fit Test:

  • Your children’s knees should bend at the edge of the seat when their backs and bottoms are against the vehicle seat back; and
  • The vehicle lap belt should fit across the upper thighs; and
  • The shoulder belt should fit across the shoulder and chest. Children are usually between 8 and 12 years old when the seat belt fits them properly. 

 

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