Tag Archives: Car Seats

Which child safety seat is the right one for you?

By Stephanie D. Shaw

Graphic for Child Passenger Safety Week“Every 33 seconds a child is involved in a crash.”
“6 out of 10 car seats are installed improperly.”

For parents, these statistics might be terrifying and overwhelming. As a parent and volunteer child passenger safety technician, I take comfort in knowing that the best way to protect my own children is the proper use of age-appropriate child safety seats and booster seats. But with so many messages out there—and maybe not the same technical background or experience—how do you know if you’re making the right decisions for your children?

Today, I wanted to share the answers to some of the questions I’ve gotten from parents and caregivers.

Q. When is my child old enough to sit up front with me?

A. Until they properly fit an adult seat belt, they should always ride in the back seat, and they should always use the right child safety seat or booster seat! But different-size children need to be protected differently – read on.

Q. Which child car seat is the safest?

A. All child car seats must meet the same federal safety standards. But car seat designs vary. That’s why it is critical that you look for a seat that is recommended for your child’s height and weight.

Q. So just buy the right car seat?

A. Not so fast. Buying the right seat for your child is the first step. But, it still falls on the adult to install and use the car seat properly every time.

Q. How do I install and use a child safety seat?

A. Read carefully and follow the instructions that came with your car seat and also your vehicle owner’s manual. It’s important to read both, as they provide steps for how and where to install the seat in your vehicle. All children should ride properly secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat. If you would like help installing your seat, visit Safe Kids Worldwide to locate a child passenger safety technician in your area.

Q. When do you change from rear-facing to forward-facing seats?

A. Children under the age of 2 are best protected when they are in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat, as their spine and neck are not developed enough to support their head in the event of a crash. Even for children older than age 2, it’s recommended that they remain rear facing until they outgrow the rear-facing height or weight limit for their seat. When children outgrow a rear-facing car seat, they should use a forward-facing car seat with an internal harness and tether.

Q. When is my child ready to ride like an adult passenger?

A. Not until the adult seat belt fits them properly – usually when they are 4’9” tall. Until then, they should use a booster seat. Booster seats help children fit in an adult seat belt. Children seated in a booster seat in the back seat of the car are 45 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than children using a seat belt alone.

Q. How can you tell when an adult seat belt fits them properly?

A. seat belt fits properly when the lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest, and not cross the neck or face.

Q. What are the common mistakes to look out for in using the car seat?

A. Some common mistakes parents and caregivers make include:

  • using a forward-facing child car seat too soon;
  • installing the car seat too loosely and allowing the seat to move more than one inch at the belt path;
  • allowing the harness straps to fit loosely so they fail the pinch test; and
  • placing the chest clip too low, rather than at armpit level.

To help avoid some of these common mistakes, read the instructions that came with your car seat and also your vehicle owner’s manual. Reading these instructions will help you determine whether to use a seat belt or the lower anchors, and when to use the tether to secure your seat.

Your car seat instructions will help you position the car seat (rear facing, forward facing, or reclined); properly use the internal harness, chest-clip and buckle; and determine how best they should fit to protect your child.

Q. Can I get hands-on help?

A. You’re in luck! It’s Child Passenger Safety Week. Child passenger safety technicians and other safety professionals will host events nationwide, where parents and caregivers can get hands-on help to ensure their child is in the most appropriate car seat, installed and being used properly. (Such help is also available year-round.)

Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts are a child’s best defense against injury and death in the event of a motor vehicle crash. As a parent and a technician myself, I encourage you to find a car seat check event or child passenger safety technician in your area to make sure you’re using the right seat, every trip, every time.

Saturday, September 24, is National Seat Check Saturday. To find an event in your community, visit www.safercar.gov.

Stephanie Shaw is a NTSB Safety Advocate in the Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications.

Happy Father’s Day

By Jenny Cheek, Safety Advocate


Photo of NTSB Investigator and CPS technician Dennis Collins demonstrating the process of properly installing a child safety seat.
NTSB Investigator and CPS technician Dennis Collins walked us through the process of properly installing our child safety seat.

Father’s Day has taken on new meaning in my home, as my husband, Mike, and I prepare to welcome our first child in late June. Becoming first time parents can feel overwhelming with all the important decisions that need to be made, but we assumed that at least one thing would be simple for us: the selection and installation of a child safety seat for our car. After all, I’ve worked in the traffic safety field for several years. Surely, I’d know just what to do when it came to choosing the best child safety seat for our daughter.

 Like many things with first-time parenting, we had no idea what we were getting into. What seemed like a simple idea – choosing the safest seat for our child – was actually really confusing. There are various styles of child safety seats (infant seats, convertible seats, and booster seats) made by dozens of manufacturers, all with different features and prices. I wondered how we would make the best choice. We quickly learned that all seats sold in the United States must meet minimum safety standards, so anything available on the market will provide protection when properly installed and used. It’s most important to choose a seat that’s right for your child’s age and size, that fits in your vehicle, and that can be properly installed and used.

Once we made our choice of a seat, we were faced with what we thought would be the daunting task of installing it properly. It’s estimated that 73 percent of child safety seats are not installed or used correctly, and incorrectly installed or improperly used seats don’t provide the intended protection in the event of a crash. Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death to children by as much as 71 percent. We weren’t willing to take a risk with our child’s safety, so we sought help getting our seat installed.

Enter NTSB Human Performance Investigator Dennis Collins. Not only is Dennis a seasoned investigator in our Highway Safety division, he’s also a Child Passenger Safety technician and trainer. He’s been professionally trained on how to install all varieties of seats in just about any type of passenger vehicle.* Perhaps even more importantly, Dennis is a father of five, so he understood our desire to have the seat properly installed. Dennis walked us through the process of installing the seat and demonstrated how to use all its features. Thanks to Dennis, Mike and I both feel confident that we can ensure that the seat stays properly installed and use it so we get the maximum safety benefit for our child.

With our new child safety seat properly installed, there’s just one thing left: waiting for our baby to make her arrival.

* Click here to find a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician or seat check resource near you.

Child Safety: A Good Place to Start is with a Properly Installed Safety Seat

By Debbie Hersman

For years (and years), we have called on automobile manufacturers and child-restraint manufacturers to provide our youngest passengers with adequate protection for when they are riding in cars. Over the past few decades, we have seen significant improvement in both the design of vehicles and child-restraint systems, but there is still more that can be done.

Today, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released the findings of joint research conducted by IIHS and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) that found that many vehicle seat designs continue to make child-restraint installation difficult for parents (and, of course, for others who are seeing to the safety of our younger travelers). Additionally, automakers are not adequately incorporating a system called Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH), which is designed to facilitate child-restraint installation by standardizing attachment hardware.

Let me explain. The researchers found that for LATCH to be correctly used automakers should make sure that the lower anchors are easy to see, easy to access (not obstructed by seat-belt buckles or seat material), and should not require parents to use a lot of force to connect the child-restraint attachments to the LATCH attachments in the vehicle. Unfortunately, only 21 of the 98 top-selling 2010-11 model passenger vehicles evaluated by researchers have LATCH designs that are easy to use.

Yet, the responsibility isn’t just with automakers. Researchers also found that parents are not using the available equipment properly. At the NTSB, we recognize the importance of educating parents on proper restraint use. In a promising development, earlier this week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched its new “Parents Central” website, which is designed to provide parents with information to best protect their children — beginning from that first drive home from the hospital all the way to the first trip as a newly licensed driver.

New children and new parents are born every day, which means that education and outreach on child passenger safety never ends. I commend NHTSA, IIHS, and UMTRI for their continued commitment to this important safety issue.