Every September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sponsors Child Passenger Safety Week with a goal of keeping kids safe on our roads. Did you know that nearly half of all car seats are installed incorrectly? Vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children, but a correctly installed car seat or booster seat reduces the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers. 

Even if you think you’ve done everything right, take a few moments to read this over. Both new and experienced parents may not be aware of some of the newest rules, regulations, and resources surrounding child passenger safety. Be informed and be safe!

Stay Rear-Facing As Long as Possible

It was once recommended that car seats remain rear-facing until a child has reached his or her second birthday, but that age-specific guideline has been replaced by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Now, it is best to adhere to the following:

  • Keep infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. This means your child could be four years old before they turn around. 

Some parents feel pressured by others to turn their child around prematurely because others suggest that it’s boring for a child to be rear-facing or that their legs will get cramped. My children stayed rear-facing until their fourth birthday (four of my six have reached this milestone!) and they were just fine. When needed, they’d cross their legs and reposition. Safety is more important than anything else!

Choose the Right Seat

Just because your child has reached the height and weight requirements to turn around, it does not mean that they should be riding without any car seat at all. Here are the guidelines for staying safe in the years to come:

  • Forward-facing children should use a car seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many of today’s seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.
  • Move to a belt-positioning booster seat when children grow out of their car seat. They should remain in a booster until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they’ve reached a height of at least 4 feet 9 inches in height (at 8 to 12 years old).
  • When children begin using the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use both lap and shoulder restraints.
  • All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles.

Again, this is about safety and saving lives. Properly securing your child in a vehicle is one of the simplest ways to keep them safe on the road. Even if they don’t want to sit in a booster seat, explain to them that it’s for their own protection.

Register Your Car Seat

You know that little card that comes with your car seat that is already self-addressed and postage-paid? Fill it out and send it in. Better yet, if your car seat manufacturer allows you to submit online, stop what you’re doing and complete the steps right away. Don’t see instructions for registering? No problem—you can register your seat online.

Why is this so important? When you register as an owner of a specific car seat, you will receive alerts about recalls and/or other important updates. 

Have Your Car Seat Checked

Finally, even if you followed all the steps in the manual, you can have your car seat inspected by a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician to ensure it was installed correctly. They can also let you know if you are using it properly. 

Need help finding a professional? Use this search tool to find a car seat inspection station in your area right now. Everything might check out, everything might be safely secured, but it’s better to find out now than to wait until it’s too late. Make this a priority—today.