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Common Car Seat Misuses and Tips

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  • The following guidelines can help reduce the risk of severe injury to your precious baby if you are ever involved in a car accident.
  • Your child should ride rear-facing until they are at least 1 and weigh at least 20 pounds. It is best for your child to ride rear-facing for as long as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics is now encouraging children to ride rear-facing until they have reached the height and weight limits of the convertible car seat, or until the minimum age of two.
  • Once your child has exceeded either the height or the weight limit of the infant car seat, it is time to change to a convertible car seat.
  • Always use a car seat when transporting your child in any vehicle.
  • Never place the car seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has a front passenger air bag since this could cause serious injury and/or death if the air bags deploy. If you must place your car seat in the front seat, turn off the airbags.
  • Do not use a used car seat that you do not know the history of.
  • Do not use a car seat older than 6 years. Check your car seat's label for the date of manufacturing and date of expiration. This information can also be found on the box that your car seat came in.
  • Read your owner’s manual carefully and know how to operate your car seat.
Common Car Seat Misuses and Tips
  • The middle seat in the back of the car is the safest place for a car seat. However, if you cannot place the seat in the middle of your backseat, then place it on the side back seats. Be sure to read your vehicle’s owner manual for instructions regarding side air bags.
  • Ensure that the car seat is installed tightly and properly in the vehicle. If the car seat is able to be moved 1 inch side-to-side at the belt path, then the seat is not tight enough. There are certified technicians and inspection stations (usually at your local police or fire department) available in your area. Go to or to find one near you.
  • Ensure that the harness fits your child snugly. The harness straps should be positioned in the slots at or below your child’s shoulders when in a rear-facing seat. In a forward-facing seat, the straps should be positioned in the slots at or above the shoulders.
  • Ensure that your rear-facing seat reclines at the correct 45˚ angle so your child’s head does not flop forward. Many seats provide angle indicators, be sure to review your car seat owner’s manual.
  • Do not use any type of insert that did not come with your car seat since your car seat was not crash tested and proven safe with this additional equipment.
  • Do not use a blanket that goes between the car seat and your child because this compromises the integrity of the car seat. Only use a blanket on top of your child and make sure that it is no higher than the chest to prevent suffocation.
  • Avoid using thick jackets or snowsuits because the extra padding can compromise the snugness of the harness. Instead, use a blanket on top of your child and make sure that it is no higher than the chest to prevent suffocation.
  • Smaller infants fit more securely in infant-only seats. If needed, use rolled up blankets around the baby but make sure to NEVER place the blankets under or behind your baby.
  • Babies born before 37 weeks should have a car seat challenge test in the hospital prior to discharge to ensure that they can ride safely in a reclined position. If baby does not pass this test, a car bed may be needed.
  • If your car seat has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, refer to your car seat owner's manual for instructions on when to replace your car seat. If owner's manual is unavailable, another resource where information can be found is NHTSA's Child Restraint Re-Use After Minor Crash guidelines.
  • Joyce's Tip: Shelf liner can be used under your car seat instead of non-slip mats. Shelf liner is inexpensive and has grip on both sides to help reduce sliding of the car seat.

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