General Overview: Why Car Seats for Children?

  • Keeps child in the vehicle
  • Protects the head, neck and spinal cord
  • Helps the body to ride-down the crash
  • Spreads forces over wide part of the body
  • Contact strongest parts of the body

Four Stages of Child Passenger Safety

Rear-Facing Seats

Children should remain in rear-facing seats until at least one year of age and weigh at least twenty pounds.

Infant Seats

  • Rear-facing ONLY
  • Harness weight limits may vary
    • Birth through 20 lbs +
    • 4 lbs through 20 lbs +
    • 5 lbs through 20 lbs +
  • Common and convenient
    • Are small and have carrying handles, sometimes as part of a stroller
    • Many come with a base that can be left in the car - no need to install base before each use
  • Not always economical
    • Used only for travel
    • Does not last very long because children grow fast
  • Provide optimal protection

Rear-Facing Convertible Seats

  • Can be used for rear-facing, then "converted" to foward-facing for older children
  • Rear-facing harness weight limits vary:
    • Birth through 30 lbs +
    • 5 lbs through 30 lbs +
  • Unlike infant seats, do not have handles or bases - not as convenient, more likely to have fitting problems
  • Economical - can be used longer by child
  • Provide optimal protection

General Information for Rear-Facing Seats

3 Point vs. 5 Point Harness

Three-Point Harness: Less likely to provide good fit for small infants

Five-Point Harness: More likely to provide good fit, provides optimal protection

Angle Indicators

Angle indicator

Adjustment Foot

Adjustment footAdjustment foot

Allows angle of carseat to be adjusted for installation within the vehicle.

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Foward-Facing Seats

Children should remain in rear-facing seats as long as the seat can support them. See labels to see the weight limit of rear-facing seats. Once your child exceeds it, and is one year of age and weigh at least twenty pounds, your child may switch to a foward-facing seat. This usually applies to toddlers and preschoolers.

Use convertible seats for foward-facing seats. For information on convertible seats, see above.


Tips Chest Clip Harness

Chest Clip

May also be called a retainer clip.

  • The function of the chest clip is to keep the harness straps in the proper position
  • Placed at armpit level


  • Straps should lie flat, with no twists, tears or snags
  • Straps should be routed through the slots at or above the child's shoulders (check instructions)
  • Straps should be snug - you should not be able to pinch any webbing at the shoulders
  • Child is too large for harness when the shoulders are above the top harness slots, regardless of weight
  • If you need to clean the straps, please use gentle soap and water
  • Child should be placed into the seat without bulky clothing. Additional layers may prevent a proper fit
  • Check the height and weight limits. If your child exceeds either of these limits, it is time for a new seat and/or Step 3


  • Locate the belt-path
  • Use the manual for the vehicle to assist you
  • Determine if you will be using the seat belt OR the LATCH system, never both
  • Car seat must not move more than 1 inch side to side or front to back when grasped at the belt path

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Booster Seats

Booster seats are for older children who have outgrown their forward-facing car safety seats. Children should stay in a booster seat until adult belts fit correctly (usually when a child reaches about 4' 9" in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age).

  • Older kids get weighted and measured less often than babies, so check your child's growth a few times a year. Use a booster seat until your child weighs between 80 and 100 pounds, is about 4'9" tall and can pass the Safety Belt Fit Test. For most children, that will be between ages 8 and 12.
    • Safety Belt Fit Test
      1. Have your child sit all the way back on the vehicle seat. Do his or her knees bend at the front edge of the seat? If they bend naturally, go to #2. If they don't, return to the booster seat.
      2. Buckle the lap and shoulder belt. Be sure the lap belt rests on the upper legs or hips. If it does, go to #3. If it rests on the stomack, return to the booster seat.
      3. Be sure the shoulder belt rests on the shoulder or collarbone. If it does, go to #4. If it's on the face or neck, return to the booster seat. Never put the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the child's back.
      4. Check whether your child maintains the correct seating position for as long as you are in the car. If your child slouches or shifts in positions so the safety belt touches the face, neck or stomach, return your child to the booster seat.
  • Inform all drivers who transport your child that booster seat use is a must when your child is on their vehicle.
  • A booster seat uses no harness. It uses the vehicle's lap and shoulder belts only. Be sure the safety belt is properly buckled.
  • Booster seats are not installed tightly. They seat on the vehicle seat; the child buckles the lap and shoulder belt and wears the safety belt like you do. Never use only the lap belt.
  • Use the vehicle's lap and shoulder belts on every booster seat. Never place the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the child's back.

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Seat Belts

Move children from booster seats to safety belts in a back seat only after the Safety Belt Fit Test is passed in every vehile. Return your child to a booster seat if the safety belt does not fit perfectly.

  • Ensure that all kids sit upright when using safety belts. Never let them lean against windows or car doors or lie down. Never put the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the child's back.
  • Inform every driver who transports your child that safety belt use is a must when your child is in their vehicle.
  • Teach your child to use a safety belt in a back seat in every vehicle he or she uses. This is most important when the child rides unsupervised in vehicles driven by family and friends.

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