Child Seat Safety Tips

It is important to make sure your child is strapped in and secured properly whenever they ride in the car with you. It's almost always safer if they are riding in the back, in a rear-facing car seat, which is appropriate for their age and weight.

You should keep your child in a car seat for as long as possible and only use a regular seat belt when they are big enough to wear it properly. The shoulder belt should lie across the shoulder instead of the neck or throat. The lap belt should lie flat across the hips and not the stomach. If the seat belt does not fit properly, you should employ a booster seat until they are big enough.

To ensure you are using your child's car seat properly:

  • Avoid putting your child in the front seat with an air bag. If you do not have a back seat, the child should be placed in a rear-facing seat with the airbag turned off.
  • Secure the harness straps at or below shoulder level; keep the straps snug and fasten the clip at armpit level; make sure the straps are flat and not twisted.
  • Dress your child in loose-fitting clothing that allows the straps to go between their legs; avoid bulky clothes that could increase slack in the straps.
  • To prevent slouching, pad the sides of your child's seat with some blankets or rolled up diapers.
  • The car seat's carrying handle should be facing down.
  • The child should be in a rear-facing seat at a 45-degree angle. If your child's head falls forward, the seat needs to recline further.
  • Make sure you install the car seat according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • All new car seats are required to be attached with a top tether strap. If your car seat does not come equipped with a tether, you should be able to buy a kit for your child's car seat.

You should not use a car seat if you notice any of the following:

  • It is too old. Seats made before 1981 don't meet modern safety standards and many manufacturers recommend using a car seat for only six years.
  • The car seat does not have a manufacturer's label and model number. These are necessary to check for recalls.
  • The car seat has been in an accident. Even if it appears undamaged, its structural integrity could have been compromised.
  • It has cracks in its frame or is missing parts.

To find out if your car seat is the subject of a recall, you should call the Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-DASH-2-DOT. If there is a recall, you will be given instructions and you can also register for future recall notices.