Car Seat Safety | Valley Children's Healthcare (2023)

For parents with young children, car seats and booster seats are a key part of everyday life. However, it isn’t enough to simply have a car seat or booster seat; ensuring your child’s seat is durable and secure, and that your child is properly strapped in, is vital to their safety each and every time they travel by car.

Did you know? According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, children ages 4 and younger who ride in motor vehicles unrestrained are twice as likely to die or suffer injuries in a car crash. However, correctly used car seats can reduce that risk by as much as 71%.

As the lead agency for Safe Kids Central California, Valley Children's Healthcare is dedicated to providing education and car seat safety evaluation events throughout Central California to help reduce the number of child passenger injuries.

(Video) Car Seat Inspection with Safety Stop

Car Seat Safety Tips

We encourage parents to research car seats before purchasing, and then registering their car seat, getting a car seat check-up at an inspection station, and staying informed about recalls.

  • Baby on the way? Research which car seat is best for your new baby. Safe Kids has several resources for parents in the market for a new car seat, including a step-by-step buyer’s guide.
  • Be aware of safety recalls. If you've got a car seat in mind, or if you've purchased one and want to stay updated on any safety recalls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a handy website where you can type in the brand name or model of your car seat to see if it's been recalled. If you don't see your car seat listed, it means there are no safety recalls for the seat.
  • Stay in-the-know: Register your car seat. Once you register your car seat, the seat’s manufacturer can notify you about any safety recalls and provide instructions for the repair process.
  • Get a car seat check-up. Check with yourlocal police or fire department to see if they have a certified technician on staff.
  • Rear-facing is safest. Keep your children in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the weight limit, which is typically around 40 pounds. Many parents are in a rush to turn their children forward-facing too soon, putting them at risk of severe injury.
  • Keep track of the age of your car seat. Unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer, car seats older than six years are expired and are no longer recommended for use.

Car Seat Safety | Valley Children's Healthcare (1)

The Ultimate Car Seat Guide

For parents on the go, Safe Kids has created the Ultimate Car Seat Guide, which offers easy-to-understand tips on how to choose and use a car seat in English and Spanish. Simply fill in your child’s age and weight to get car seat safety recommendations and answers personalized for your child. Click here to visit the online Ultimate Car Seat Guide.

(Video) Car Seat Safety - Preventing Heatstroke in Children - Penn State Health Children’s Hospital

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Booster Seat Safety Tips

A booster seat is a bridge between a car seat with a harness and a seat belt alone. Booster seats are similar to car seats, but do not use a harness because the child and booster seat are held in place by the car’s regular adult seatbelt, which crosses the body at the shoulder and fits snugly across the lap. It boosts the child so the vehicle’s seat belt can fit them properly, providing a safer and more comfortable ride and keeping your growing passenger safe. Just like your child’s car seat, the booster seat is always placed in the back seat of the car.

  • Is my child ready for a booster seat? Make sure your child meets the weight or height limits allowed in her forward-facing car seat – check your car seat’s label and manufacturer instructions. Additionally, your child must be able to stay in the booster seat for the entire car ride with the seat belt properly fitted across their shoulder and below their hips. If not, your child might not be quite ready to ride without a car seat harness.
  • Understand the two types of booster seats:
    • High back booster. This type is best if your vehicle has a low seat back and no head rest. Like adults, children need support behind their heads. A high-back booster may also be good for younger children who fall asleep in the car or who like the extra comfort and a place to lean their heads.
    • Backless booster. This type may be more convenient if you carpool or travel. They are typically less expensive. However, the vehicle must have a seat back high enough to provide support behind your child’s head. What’s high enough? Your child’s ears should be below the top of the vehicle seat or head rest.
  • Watch for common fit problems. Don’t allow your child to put the shoulder belt behind their back or under their arm. If they must do that to be comfortable, your child might not yet be ready for a booster seat or may need a different booster seat.

Bonus safety tip: Test out your booster seat in all cars your child will travel in, including car pool vehicles. Just because the seat fits in one car doesn’t mean it will fit in all cars. When the booster seat is not being used, secure it with the seat belt so it doesn’t fly around the car if you stop suddenly.

Seat Belts

Don’t be in a rush to move your child from a booster seat to a seat belt alone. Your vehicle’s regular adult seat belt usually does not fit well until sometime between the ages of 8 and 12, depending on the size of your child. To find out if your child is ready for a seat belt alone, try the Safety Belt Fit Test below. Until your child is able to pass every step in the test, it’s best to keep them in a booster seat.

(Video) PedsGeekMD: Car Seat Safety

  • Check knees and feet. Your child’s knees should bend at the edge of the seat when her back and bottom are against the vehicle seat back. Her feet should touch the floor for comfort and stability.
  • Check the lap belt. The vehicle lap belt must fit snugly across the hips or upper thighs.
  • Check the shoulder belt. The shoulder belt must fit across the shoulder and chest, not across the face or neck.

Remember, just because your child passes the Safety Belt Fit Test in one car doesn’t necessarily mean they will pass it in all cars, so do the Fit Test in every car before permanently transitioning your child to a seat belt alone. And as always, be a good example: wear your seat belt every time you get in the car.

Child Passenger Safety Tips

Whether you’re traveling with an infant or a school-aged child, there are some helpful tips to keep in mind to ensure your little one is safe in the car.

  • Back seat is best. The back seat is the safest place to ride for all children under age 13. Not all cars allow for a car seat in every place that has a seat belt, so check your vehicle’s owner manual to see where you can put a car seat.
  • Be picky with which toys you allow in the car. Choose toys that are soft and will not hurt your child in the event of a crash or abrupt stop. Secure any loose objects in the car that may become dangerous if the vehicle stops suddenly.
  • Always wear your seat belt. As a parent, you are your child’s first and best teacher, so model the behavior you want your child to follow. Buckle up every time, for every trip.
  • Never leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute. Young children’s bodies heat up 3 to 5 times faster than adults, putting them especially at risk for heatstroke if left in a car, even on what seems to be a mild day.

More Resources

(Video) Car Seat Safety


Where can I get a free car seat in Georgia? ›

GEORGIA Free Car Seats

South Health District Car Seat Program (Valdosta, Lowndes County): Provides a child safety seat to low-income families in need. More details can be found on their website.

What is the #1 safest car seat? ›

Compare the best car seats
Car seatBest forType
Graco 4Ever DLXBest overall4-in-1
Chicco Keyfit 30Best for budgetsInfant
Britax Boulevard Clicktight with ARBExtended rear-facing pickConvertible
Evenflo All4One DLXBest convertible car seat4-in-1
1 more row

Should my 5 year old be in a car seat or booster? ›

Current California Law:

Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat. Children who are 8 years of age OR have reached 4'9” in height may be secured by a booster seat, but at a minimum must be secured by a safety belt. (California Vehicle Code Section 27363.)

What are the car seat laws in Georgia 2023? ›

Georgia law requires that all children under the age of 8 whose height is less than 4'9" (57 inches) are required to be in either a car seat or a booster seat suitable for their age, height and weight and must ride in the backseat of a vehicle.

How to get a free empty seat for baby? ›

As soon as a gate agent shows up at your gate go chat with them. This is the exact line that I will ask them, “Is there an empty seat on this flight so I can bring my car seat on board?” If the flight is not full and it's not against their airline policy, chances are they'll give you the available seat!

Are car seats free? ›

Free car seats can be obtained through organizations like Safe Kids Worldwide, Baby 2 Baby, and Everyday Miracles. Local resources like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) offices, the Department of Child Services, and 211 can also help you find free or affordable car seats.

What is the best seat to survive a car crash? ›

The Rear Middle Seat is the Safest Seat Location

The back seat is more protected from head-on crashes than the front seats. But, the back seats are still vulnerable to side crashes. That's why the middle seat in the back is the safest spot, since it's basically the center of the car.

Where is the best place to put a child's car seat? ›

The safest place for your child's car seat is in the back seat, away from active air bags. Air bags in the front seat are made to protect the head and face of an adult-sized person in a seat belt. If you place the car seat in the front seat and the air bag inflates, it can be dangerous.

Where is the best place to put a baby car seat? ›

The bottom line. Other things equal, the safest place is in the center seat in the back row. However, any back seat placement in a properly fitted and installed car seat will significantly lower the risk of injury in a crash. And, the real priority is to just get a good safe installation.

Can a 5 year old be in a backless booster seat? ›

Here are some things that will help you determine whether your child is ready for a backless booster: Age: 5 to 6 years old. Weight: at least 40 pounds. Height: 38 to 43 inches.

At what age do you switch a child to a booster seat? ›

Generally, kids are between the ages of 5-9 when they begin to outgrow the weight limitations of a 5-point harness car seat. Before you make the move to a belt-positioning booster seat, make sure your child meets these requirements: Generally, kids weighing over 65 pounds are ready to switch to a booster seat.

What age is a toddler? ›

Experts commonly use the word toddler when babies turn 1 year of age. The toddler age range usually runs from 1 year to 3 years of age, and before you know it, your little one will be a preschooler! Each of these stages brings its own exciting developmental milestones and learning curves for your child.

What age can a child ride without a car seat in Georgia? ›

According to O.C.G.A. 40-6-76 (Georgia Code) children under eight years of age must ride in an approved child restraint system and be restrained by a seat safety belt approved under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 .

At what age can a child ride in the front seat in Georgia? ›

7) When can my child ride in the front seat? A: Georgia law requires children to ride in the back seat until age 8. However, children age 12 and under should ride in the back seat of the vehicle whenever possible as the back seat is the safest position for children.

Does a 7 year old need a booster seat in Georgia? ›

Booster seats are recommended for children 4-7 years old who are less than 4 feet 9 inches tall. When using a booster seat, remember the following: Use a high back model if your vehicle has low seats and no headrests. You can use a backless model if your vehicle has a headrest.

What happens if you don't have a car seat after giving birth? ›

How do you get a newborn home from the hospital if you don't have a car seat? Walk, with the baby either in a sling / baby carrier, or in a pram. Or get the bus, again with the baby securely fastened in a sling. You do NOT take the baby home in a car, or a taxi, if you don't have a proper car seat.

How much is a no car seat ticket in GA? ›

Under Georgia car seat laws, all children under the age of 8 years and shorter than 4 feet 9 inches have to be secured in a child restraint. A first violation of the law carries a penalty of maximum $50.

Do local fire departments install car seats? ›

Car seat installation doesn't happen as often in fire departments anymore due to liability risk. That said, you can always check in with your local police department or hospital about car seat installation help. You might even be able to get a free car seat while you're there!


1. Car Seat Safety By Age: Infants in Rear-facing Seats (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)
2. Car Seat Safety by Age: Booster Seat Safety from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
3. Car Seat Safety 2018 - Penn State Health Children’s Hospital
(Penn State Health)
4. Car Seat Safety By Age: Toddlers in Forward-facing Seats (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)
5. UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital provides winter car seat safety tips to keep your kids safe
(WKYC Channel 3)
6. Car Seat Safety
(Children's Health)
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