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Car Seat Safety

This important responsibility begins with selecting a child car seat and using it properly from the moment you bring baby home to every car ride after that. All 50 states have laws that require the use of a car seat. All car seats manufactured today are designed to meet stringent safety standards set by the federal government.

  • Children should ride rear-facing until they reach the maximum rear-facing weight or height allowed by the instructions.
  • Children who exceed rear-facing limits should ride in forward-facing car seats with a harness.
  • Children who exceed the forward-facing harness limits should ride in booster seats until seat belts alone fit correctly.
  • Follow the car seat instructions for proper use and your state law and register your car seat with the manufacturer.
  • The back seat is the safest place for children under 13 to ride.
  • Do not use a car seat or booster car seat that:
    • is second-hand, especially if it is beyond its expiration date.
    • has ever been involved in a crash.
    • is missing the manufacturer's label showing the name of the manufacturer, model number, and date of manufacture.
  • Register your car seat! Car seats could be recalled for safety reasons, and you must register your car seat to be reached in the event of a recall. Call the manufacturer customer service line listed on your car seat labels or visit the manufacturer's website to register.
  • Car seats expire! Check your labels and instructions for the expiration date.
  • Ensure everyone in the car is buckled up! Unrestrained passengers can be thrown around in a sudden stop or crash, possibly being injured and/or injuring others in the car.
  • Prevent Heatstroke!
    • Never leave your child alone in a car, not even during a quick trip to the store.
    • Keep car doors and trunks locked and keep key fobs out of reach.
    • Create reminders like placing a stuffed animal or other memento in your child's car seat when it's empty and move the toy to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.
    • Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.
  • Air Travel - Taking your child's car seat along when traveling is recommended. 
  • Most car seats with harnesses are approved for use in an aircraft, with a label that states "This Restraint is Certified for Use in Motor Vehicles and Aircraft."
    • Booster seats are labeled, "This Restraint is Not Certified for Use in Aircraft."
    • Pack your booster car seat as luggage so you have it at your destination.

Each year, children die unnecessary and heartbreaking deaths when they are accidentally left in cars that heat up quickly. It is surprisingly easy to forget about baby in the backseat when thrown off your routine, daydreaming or simply dealing with stressors of everyday life. In order to combat these deaths, we and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommend the following tips for preventing these situations:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
  • Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle - front and back - before locking the door and walking away.
  • If you are dropping your child off at childcare, and normally it's your spouse or partner who drops them off, have your spouse or partner call you to make sure the drop went according to plan.
  • Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up for childcare.
  • Always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children's reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
  • If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Cool the child rapidly. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as:
  • Writing yourself a note and putting the note where you will see it when you leave the vehicle;
  • Placing your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat so that you will have to check the back seat when you leave the vehicle; or
  • Keeping an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. When the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when he or she is leaving the vehicle.

 For more car seat tips and resources, check out our Car Seat Resources page!

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