Fundamentals of Car Seat Safety Matter for Every Ride

Fundamentals of Car Seat Safety Matter for Every Ride

Fundamentals of Car Seat Safety Matter for Every Ride

Use the Five to Keep Kids Alive

Amy Artuso is a senior program manager in Grants and Advocacy with the National Safety Council and a past-chairperson of the National Child Passenger Safety Board.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has designated Sept. 17 – 23, 2017, as Child Passenger Safety Week, and the basics of child passenger safety are more important than ever. While great strides have been made in recent decades, motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause death for children, and over half of children killed are either improperly restrained or completely unrestrained.

NSC and NHTSA are working to get people the information they need for Child Passenger Safety Week. Being educated about the importance of selection, direction, location, installation and harnessing can go a long way in keeping children safe!


Car seats and booster seats provide children with the same level of protection, and sometimes better protection, than that given adults by seat belts and other safety equipment built into a vehicle. They are designed to keep children within the vehicle, prevent harmful contact with interior surfaces or other occupants, and gradually decelerate the child as the vehicle absorbs energy from crash forces. For this to work, the right seat must be selected for a child's height, weight and developmental level. Make sure the seat is in good condition (has not been in a crash, not expired or recalled, no labels missing). It is also important to register your seat so that you can be notified in the event of a recall.


Car seats need to face in the correct direction for a child's age, height, weight and developmental level. Many children are transitioned too soon to the next seat stage, which puts them at increased risk for injury. NHTSA suggests that children should ride rear-facing to the upper weight or height limits of their seats, and seats with higher rear-facing weight and height limits will allow many children to ride rear-facing well past the age of 2 years. Only then should children begin to ride in a forward-facing car seat.


The back seat is the safest place for all children under the age of 13. They are better protected from head-on collisions (the most common type of crash) and are not at risk for being injured by the front passenger air bag. NEVER place a rear-facing car seat in front of an active air bag.

Choosing the best location for your child's car seat should consider the needs of all passengers who ride in the vehicle. A certified child passenger safety technician can assist with the correct installation of your car seat, as well as considering the needs of your entire family.


It is estimated that nearly half of car seats on America's roads are installed incorrectly. Always read your car seat instruction manual and your vehicle owner's manual to ensure you are correctly installing your car seat and properly using booster seats. If you have questions, meet with a child passenger safety technician or call the seat manufacturer at the toll-free number found on the seat labels. 

Car seats can be installed with either the seat belt or the lower anchors (LATCH system), and forward facing seats should utilize the top tether. Once installed, car seats should not move more than 1 inch from side to side or front to back. While use of seat belts and lower anchors are equally safe when used correctly, only one should be used, not both at the same time, and should be threaded through the correct belt path on the seat.


Correct harnessing or seat belt fit ensures your child is securely positioned in a car seat, booster seat or vehicle seat. Too often, harnesses are loose or incorrectly positioned on a child.

In addition, children are often moved prematurely from harnessed car seats into booster seats, as well as from booster seats into adult seat belts, which puts them at greater risk for injury. Be sure to check harness and seat belt fit for young passengers before each trip begins.

If you drive with a child, take the time on Saturday, Sept. 23, to attend an event to have your own vehicle assessed by a child passenger safety technician. By making sure all five fundamentals are observed, you can make your car a safer place for the youngsters with whom you share your car and your life.

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