6. Moving to a forward-facing car seat too soon
Resist the urge to place your child's car seat in the forward-facing position just so that you can see him or her in your rearview mirror. Riding rear facing is recommended until a child reaches age 2 or the highest weight — typically at least 35 pounds (about 16 kilograms) — or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. You can start with a convertible seat, which can be used rear facing and, later, forward facing and typically has a higher rear-facing weight and height limit than does an infant-only seat, or switch from an infant-only seat to a forward-facing car seat as your baby grows.
When your child reaches age 2 or the rear-facing weight or height limit of the convertible seat, you can face the seat forward. When you make the switch:
- Install the car seat in the back seat according to the manufacturer's instructions, using either the seat belt or Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system.
- Use the tether strap — a strap that hooks to the top of the seat and attaches to an anchor in the vehicle — for extra stability.
- Adjust the harness straps so that they're at or above your child's shoulders and fit snugly.
7. Not removing your child's heavy outerwear
Bulky outerwear and blankets can prevent harness straps from snugly securing your baby. Buckle the harness, and then place a coat or blanket over the harness to keep your baby warm.
8. Moving to a booster seat too soon
Older children need booster seats to help an adult safety belt fit correctly. You can switch from a car seat to a booster seat when your child has topped the highest weight — typically 40 to 80 pounds (18 to 36 kilograms) — or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Remember, however, that your child is safest remaining in a car seat with a harness for as long as possible.
9. Incorrectly using a booster seat
Booster seats must be used with a lap and shoulder belt — never a lap-only belt. Make sure the lap belt lies low and snug across your child's upper thighs and that the shoulder belt crosses the middle of your child's chest and shoulder.
10. Transitioning to a safety belt too soon
Most kids can safely use an adult seat belt sometime between ages 8 and 12. Here's how you'll know that your child is ready:
- Your child reaches a height of 4 feet 9 inches (nearly 1.5 meters).
- Your child sits against the back of the seat with his or her knees bent comfortably at the edge of the seat — and can remain that way for the entire trip.
- The lap belt rests flat and snugly across your child's upper thighs, and the shoulder belt rests on the middle of your child's chest and shoulder — not on the neck or face.
Make sure your child doesn't tuck the shoulder belt under his or her arm or behind his or her back. Remember, the back seat is the safest place for children younger than age 13.
If you have questions about child passenger safety laws or need help installing a car seat, participate in a local car seat clinic or inspection event. You can also check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for help finding a car seat inspection station.
Aug. 29, 2017
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- Durbin DR, et al. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Policy statement — Child passenger safety. Pediatrics. 2011;127:788. Reaffirmed 2014.
- American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Technical report — Child passenger safety. Pediatrics. 2011;127:e1050. Reaffirmed 2014.
- Car seat recommendations for children. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. https://www.safercar.gov/parents/CarSeats/Right-Seat-Age-And-Size-Recommendations.htm?view=full. Accessed July 8, 2017.
- Hoffman BD, et al. Unsafe from the start: Serious misuse of car safety seats at newborn discharge. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2016;171:48.
- Child passenger safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/features/passengersafety/. Accessed July 8, 2017.
- How to install a rear-facing only infant car seat. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. https://www.safercar.gov/parents/CarSeats/How-To-Install-Infant-Car-Seat-Rear-Facing.htm?view=full. Accessed July 8, 2017.
- Shelov SP, et al. Keeping your child safe. In: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. 6th ed. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2014.