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Sharp Health News

5 car seat safety tips

June 29, 2016

5 car seat safety tips

Planning to hit the road for a summer road trip? If you have children along for the ride, there are important car seat safety tips you need to know.

Whether your child is an infant or an 8-year-old, it's important to ensure that they are sitting in the appropriate car seat for the ride. Equally important is ensuring that the car seat is properly installed.

Dr. Ahmad Bailony, a board-certified pediatrician and department chief of pediatrics at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, stresses that car seat safety is not to be taken lightly.

"Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in children over 1 year old," he says. "Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers ages 1 to 4."

Dr. Bailony recommends that parents and guardians follow the five American Academy of Pediatrics car safety seat recommendations:

Keep kids in a rear-facing car seat until they reach height or weight limits 
Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

Then transition to a harnessed car seat
Children who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight and height recommendations of the manufacturer.

Booster seat for kids up to 4 feet 9 inches
Children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their forward-facing car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits properly — typically, when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

Older children should always use a lap-and-shoulder belt
When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap-and-shoulder seat belts of the vehicle for optimal protection.

Kids under 13 should be in the backseat
All children younger than 13 should ride in the rear seats of vehicles — with seat belts, of course — for optimal protection.

Dr. Bailony also recommends that car seats be placed in the middle of the backseat when possible, that infants are never swaddled while in car seats and that all children are without heavy coats or jackets, and car seats are secured with either the seat belt or the car's LATCH system — never both unless the manufacturer recommends it.

Finally, if your child's car seat has been in use during a vehicle accident, it should be replaced with a new seat. Contact the manufacture of your car safety seat with any questions and visit National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Parents Central to learn how to find and install a car seat and to see current car seat recall information.

For the media: To talk with Dr. Bailony about car seat safety, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

This story was updated in Sept 2018 to reflect changes in car seat law.

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