Car seat safety represents one of the most important ways you can keep your child safe every day. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) states on its website that children younger than age two need a rear-facing car seat. Children who weigh 40 or more pounds or who are 40 or more inches tall may have a forward-facing seat.
Children may graduate to a booster seat once they're 4'9" or 8 years old, but that's a guideline. Most children outgrow forward-facing seats around 65 pounds. The child's height and the seat's recommendations make a difference as well.
Older children between ages 8 and 12 often need seat belt positioning booster seats to ensure the belt does not go across the neck.
Keeping your child in a car seat in the back of the car as long as possible provides the greatest level of safety. Don't rush your child.
Do not modify car seats to take up slack in straps or install car seats in the vehicle in an alternate way. Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines for fitting the seat in the car and adjusting the strap on your child.
If you're traveling in a cold climate, don't dress the child in bulky clothing such as a snowsuit and put the car seat straps over the clothing. Instead, use normal thickness clothing and cover the child with a blanket in the car.
If you lose the manufacturer's directions, the company's website likely has them listed. Or call the customer service department. The number should be printed on the bottom or the straps of the car seat.
Children belong in the backseat until they are adult size. The back is the safest place for children.
Do not use car seats that come from unknown sources. If the seat has been in even one accident, the integrity of the seat has been compromised. If a friend offers you a seat, ask about accidents.
Check the bottom of the seat for the expiration date. Car seats expire because the plastic becomes more brittle with age. Toss out any expired seats because they cannot properly protect your child.
Use the child safety seat properly every single trip — even quick trips to familiar places. Even if you're an excellent driver, other drivers, weather conditions and animals in the road can cause accidents.
Make car safety part of your family's rules. If you begin with the trip home from the hospital and use the seat correctly and consistently, your child won't mind it as much.
Choose a comfortable car seat with a cushioned seat so your child will stay more comfortable on long trips. Don't alter your seat for comfort because it may compromise its safety.
To receive help in proper car safety seat adjustment, follow this link to find a CHP office near you: https://www.chp.ca.gov/find-an-office. The CHP officers can help you ensure that your seat is installed in your car properly and fitted to your child.
For more information, check out this Ultimate Car Seat Guide here: https://www.safekids.org/ultimate-car-seat-guide/