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Buckle up: Car seat guidelines to help keep your child safe: By Sarah Clawson, CNP
February 24, 2016

One of the most important jobs you have as a parent is keeping your child safe when riding in a vehicle.  Each year thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes.  Many of these incidents can be prevented by ensuring that your child is properly buckled in an appropriate size car seat or booster seat.   There are a variety of car seats available and the choices can be overwhelming.  Below are some tips to help choose the most appropriate car seat for your child.


Birth up to 2 years:  Rear-facing car seat.  These include rear-facing only seats, convertible seats, and 3-in-1 seats.  Infants and children should be buckled in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat until age 2 or when they reach the weight limits of their particular seat.  Some larger infants and toddlers may have to graduate to a rear-facing convertible car seat with higher weight limits to get you to your next car seat milestone.  Do not worry if your baby’s feet touch the back of the vehicle seat.  Your child can bend his legs easily and will be comfortable in a rear facing seat.  Injuries to the legs are rare for children facing the rear.  Avoid dressing your baby in bulky clothing including winter coats and snowsuits.  These can compress in a crash and lead to increased risk of injury.  Dress your baby in layers and tuck a coat or blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps, if needed.  Make sure to use the slots for the harness that are at or below the baby’s shoulders and that the harness clip is placed at the center of the chest at the level of the child’s armpits.


2 years to at least age 5:  Forward-facing car seat.  When children outgrow their rear-facing car seat, they should be buckled in a forward-facing car seat with a harness, in the backseat until at least age 5 or when they reach the upper weight or height limit of their particular seat.  Make sure the shoulder straps are in the slot that are at or above sure child’s shoulders.  Always use a top tether if you are able.  This helps to connect the top part of the car seat to the vehicle seat.


School aged children:  All children whose height is above the forward-facing limits for their car seat should use a belt positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, usually when the child has reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

When children are old enough and large enough for the vehicle seat belt to fit them correctly, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.  The lap belt should lie low and snug across your child’s upper thighs.  The shoulder belt should cross the middle ear child’s chest and shoulder and be off of the neck.


All children under 13 years of age should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.


It is important to remember to be a good role model for your children.  Always wear your seatbelt to set an example and help your child formulate a lifelong habit of buckling up.  Never leave your child alone in or around cars.  Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.


If you have questions or need help with installing a car seat you can contact:

  • Madison County/London City Health District: 740-852-3065
  • NHTSA: Vehicle Safety Hotline 888-327-4236
  • SeatCheck: 866-SEAT-CHECK (866-732-8243)
  • National Child Passenger Safety Certified Technicians: 877-366-8154 (This site provides information in Spanish and also provides a list of CPST with enhanced training in protection of children with special needs.)

Sarah Clawson is a certified nurse practitioner at Madison Health Primary Care of London. Please call 740-845-7500 to schedule an appointment at Madison Health Primary Care of London or 614-879-8141 to schedule an appointment at Madison Health Primary Care of West Jefferson. 




"Car Seats: Information for Families for 2015." American Academy of Pediatrics, 21 Nov. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

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