Menu
Baby sleep in carseat in a vehicle

CHILD PASSENGER SAFETY

in the community

In today's highly mobile society, children travel more than ever. Sadly, this mobility comes at a staggering price. In 2013, more than 1,149 children died and over 127,000 were injured in car crashes - enough to rank motor vehicle crashes as a leading cause of death for children in the U.S. Tragically, many of these deaths could have been prevented. Research shows that seat belts and safety seats - when properly used - are the most effective tools in preventing injuries and deaths in vehicle crashes.

AAA is here to help you better understand the four stages of car seat use. Research tells us that seat belts and child safety seats are the most effective safety devices in preventing serious injuries and deaths in vehicle crashes.

safety seat guide

Child Passenger Safety Stage 1: Rear Facing

click to expand

Who:
Children should ride rear-facing until age 2. They should continue to ride rear-facing until they reach the upper weight limit of their rear-facing convertible seat.

What:
Rear-facing child safety seat

Why:
The rear-facing position supports the child's entire head, neck and spine and helps reduce stress to the neck and spinal cord in a crash. Age is the most important factor due to developmental issues. However, both age and weight requirements should be met before the child is moved to a forward-facing seat.

Installation:
Did you know that 3 out of 4 car seats are installed incorrectly? Be sure to read your vehicle owner's manual and car seat instruction manual before you install your safety seat. Here are some tips to remember as you install your seat:

  • Rear-facing seats should be installed in the back seat of your vehicle. Never place a rear-facing seat in front of an active passenger frontal air bag.
  • The center seating position is ideal if it can be used since it is the farthest away from any point of impact.
  • The seat should be installed using either the LATCH system or vehicle safety belt, never both.
  • If using the seat belt to install your safety seat, make sure the belt is locked and can hold the safety seat in tight.
  • If using the LATCH system to install your rear-facing seat, be sure to buckle all unused seat belts to prevent the possibility of strangulation by playing with the seat belt.
  • The seat should not be able to move more than one inch in any direction when testing where the belt goes through.
  • Rear-facing safety seats should be installed in the recline mode to protect your baby's breathing. Be sure to refer to the safety seat manufacturer's suggestion for the 30 - 45 degree recommendation.
  • Harnesses should be at or below your child's shoulders when rear-facing.
  • The harnesses should be snug and lie flat on your infant's shoulders, you should not be able to pinch any slack.
  • The chest clip should be positioned at armpit level, right across your infant's sternum. This protects soft tissue and helps keep the harness straps on your baby.
  • Be sure not to use any aftermarket accessories such as mirrors and metal roller shades, these items could come undone in a crash or sudden stop and injure people in your vehicle.
  • Secure any loose items such as purses, briefcases, toys and umbrellas when you travel so they do not injury anyone.
  • Also secure any unused tethers when installing your safety seat rear-facing.

Child Passenger Safety Stage 2: Forward Facing

click to expand

Who:
Children who have reached the upper weight or height limit of their rear-facing seat around 30-35 pounds; can begin to ride forward-facing. Children should remain in a forward-facing seat with a harness until they have reached the upper weight or height limit of the seat which will be 40-65 lbs.

What:
Forward-facing child safety seat

Why:
These seats include an internal harness system that keeps your child properly restrained and snug straps that limit forward motion, providing greater "ride down." The forward-facing position provides for the even distribution of physical forces over the child's body in the event of a crash.

Be Sure:
Harness straps are kept at or above their shoulders when riding foward-facing, check the car seat instructions to determine the correct harness slot that should be used.

Installation:
Did you know that 3 out of 4 car seats are installed incorrectly? Be sure to read your vehicle owner's manual and car seat instruction manual before you install your safety seat. Here are some tips to remember as you install your seat:

  • Forward-facing seats should be installed in the back seat of your vehicle whenever possible.
  • The center seating position is ideal if it can be used since it is the farthest away from any point of impact.
  • The seat should be installed using either the LATCH system or vehicle safety belt, never both. Be sure to buckle unused seat belts to limit the risk of strangulation.
  • If using the seat belt to install your safety seat, make sure the belt is locked and can hold the safety seat in tight.
  • The seat should not be able to move more than one inch in any direction when testing where the belt goes through.
  • Never install anything under or behind your forward-facing safety seat.
  • Harnesses should be at or above your child's shoulders when forward-facing.
  • The harnesses should be snug and lie flat on your child's shoulders, you should not be able to pinch any slack.
  • The chest clip should be positioned at armpit level, right across the sternum. This protects soft tissue and helps keep the straps on your child.
  • Be sure not to use any aftermarket accessories such as mirrors and metal roller shades, these items could come undone in a crash or sudden stop and injure people in your vehicle.
  • Secure any loose items such as purses, briefcases, toys and umbrellas when you travel so they do not injury anyone.
  • There are certified technicians available to teach you how to install your safety seat correctly. Call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK to find a certified technician in your area.

Child Passenger Safety Stage 3: Booster Seat

click to expand

Who:
Children can use a booster seat when they have outgrown the weight or height limit of their forward-facing harness, which will be between 40-65 lbs.

What:
Belt-positioning booster seat. Use until safety belt fits properly. See: Stage 4.

Why:
Seat belts are designed for 165-pound male adults, so it's no wonder that research shows poorly fitting adult belts can injure children. Booster seats help ensure proper seat belt placement - resulting in a safer ride for your child. It is the appropriate next step after the child has outgrown a forward-facing child safety seat.

Be Sure:
ALWAYS use both lap and shoulder belt with a booster seat. Never a lap belt only. Make sure the lap belt fits low and tight across the lap/upper thigh area - NOT the abdomen. Shoulder belt should cross the chest and shoulder. ALWAYS in the back seat!

Installation:
Did you know that 3 out of 4 car seats are installed incorrectly? Be sure to read your vehicle owner's manual and car seat instruction manual before you install your safety seat. Here are some tips to remember as you install your seat

  • Booster seats should be installed in the back seat of your vehicle.
  • Always use a lap/shoulder belt with your booster seat.
  • Place the booster seat on your vehicle seat.
  • The lap belt is positioned low on your child's hips and upper buckle the lap/shoulder seat belt around your child and the belt-positioning booster seat. Be sure to place the seat belt through the belt guides to help keep it positioned properly on your child. highs; the shoulder portion comes across the sternum and collarbone.
  • Be sure not to use any aftermarket accessories such as mirrors and metal roller shades, these items could come undone in a crash or sudden stop and injure people in your vehicle.
  • Secure any loose items such as purses, briefcases, toys and umbrellas when you travel so they do not injure anyone.
  • There are certified technicians available to help you install your safety seat. Call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK to find a certified safety seat technician in your area.

Child Passenger Safety Stage 4: Lap/Shoulder Belt

click to expand

When:
Safety belt fits properly Shoulder belt across collar bone & chest. Lap belt fits across hips/thighs, not abdomen. Knees bend naturally over edge of seat while sitting upright, with back flat against seat back.

Why:
Motor-vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of children - including teenagers! Crashes killed more than 1,149 kids in 2013 alone, ranking far ahead of all other types of unintentional injuries and claiming more lives than any childhood disease. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if only the children had been properly buckled up. Children under 13 years of age should be properly restrained in the back seat. Teenagers should wear lap and shoulder belts in every seating position in a motor vehicle.

Be Sure:
ALWAYS require seat belt use for all passengers. Make sure the lap belt fits low and tight across the lap/upper thigh area - NOT the abdomen. Shoulder belt should cross the chest and shoulder.

The Back is Where It's At!
The back seat is safer for everyone - especially children under age 13. Properly restraining a child in the back seat can significantly reduce the risk of death or injury in a crash.

CHILD AUTO SAFETY IS EASY AS ABC:

click to expand

"Always Buckle Children in the back seat"

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 2 to 14 years of age. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded children are safer riding in the back seat. The Mid‐Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education help promotes this important safety message through videos, PowerPoint presentations, handouts and interactive lessons using an interactive robotic car called "Otto the Auto."
  • Buckle up every child in the vehicle properly and buckle up yourself too. Research shows that seat belts and safety seats are the most effective safety devices for preventing serious injuries and deaths in vehicle crashes. Seat belts have been shown to reduce the risk of death by 45 percent and the risk of serious injury by 50 percent. Used in combination with seat belts, child safety seats have been shown to reduce fatalities in infants by 71 percent and to children ages 1 to 4 by 54 percent. There were 1,149 children killed in 2013; 38% were not buckled up.
  • THE BACK SEAT IS THE SAFEST SEAT FOR ALL CHILDREN. Whenever possible, put children in the back seat of the vehicle. Children under age 13 belong in the back seat. Studies show the risk of being killed in a crash decreases by one‐third when this recommendation is followed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that nearly 150 children have been killed in crashes because they were seated too close to an airbag.
  • Always secure rear‐facing infant seats in the back seat. But, never place rear‐facing infant safety seats in the front seat of a vehicle with a front passenger‐side air bag. The back of the safety seat in this position is too close to the inflating air bag and the infant could be killed or seriously injured.
  • Air bags are lifesaving devices, but special precautions must be taken when driving children in air bag equipped vehicles. Children risk injury and even death if they are unbelted, improperly belted or otherwise too close to the dashboard when an air bag inflates. To play it safe, always buckle children in the back seat.
  • If the vehicle does not have a back seat, move the front seat as far back as possible from the dashboard and make sure the child is buckled properly in the appropriate restraint for their height and weight