Keeping Kids Safe In & Around Cars

Recommendations for All Ages
Infants & Young Children
Seat Belts
Child Deaths in Vehicles Not from Crashes
Vehicle Back Overs


Select a car seat based on your child’s age, height, and weight.

  • Keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as your child fits the seat’s height and weight requirements.
  • All children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat. Airbags can kill or seriously injure children.
  • Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat where there is a passenger air bag.
  • Follow your car seat instruction manual and your vehicle owner’s manual for instructions on how to install car seats correctly.
  • Car seats have expiration dates — do not use the seat past that date.
  • When a car seat is correctly installed it should not move more than 1 inch from side to side or front to back at the belt path.
  • Car seats can be installed using the seat belt OR Lower Anchors and Tether for Children (LATCH). Use whichever works best for you, your car seat and your vehicle.

If the car seat has been in a crash it may be unsafe to use it again if one or more of the following has happened:

  • someone was injured in the crash
  • the door by the child safety seat was damaged
  • airbags were deployed
  • the vehicle had to be towed from the crash
  • you can see damage to the car seat

On August 2, 2012 a new law went into effect that requires children UNDER 8 years old and 4’9” to be properly restrained in a booster seat.


  • NEVER leave a child unattended, anytime in a vehicle
  • Teach children NOT to play in or around any vehicle
  • Before driving, check the street, driveway and area around your vehicle to avoid a potential back over


You can use an infant or convertible seat as long as the seat fits your child’s weight and height and the seat fits in your vehicle. Children should ride rear facing in their car seat until 2 years of age or the upper weight limit of the seat — 30 to 40 pounds in most cases with convertible seat and some infant seats. When rear facing, the car seat absorbs the crash forces, making it a safer position to ride in. If you turn the seat forward facing, the child absorbs the crash forces. Children should ride rear facing until the maximum weight/height of their car seat or until they are 2 years old.

  • Harness straps should be at or below the infant’s shoulders
  • The harness straps should be snug – you should be unable to pinch the harness at the shoulders. This is your baby’s seatbelt — keeping it snug will keep the infant safe!

The harness chest clip must be at the infant’s armpit level. This clip will position the harness straps to stay over the baby’s shoulders before a crash.

  • Recline a rear-facing seat at approximately a 45-degree angle for newborns and then moved to 30-45 degree angle at 5 to 6 months when they have stronger neck muscles; refer to car seats owner’s manual for instructions.


Children should ride rear facing until they are 1 year old or weigh 20 pounds; it is recommended they ride rear facing until they are 2 years old or outgrow the weight limit of their car seat.

  • Harness weight limits vary depending on the seat. Common weight limits are 40, 65, and 80 pounds.
  • Harness straps should be at or above the child’s shoulders.
  • Harness straps should be threaded through the top slots of most safety seats. Check the car seats owner’s manual for instructions.
  • Harness straps should be snug. You should not be able to pinch the harness at the shoulders. Remember this is the child’s seatbelt!
  • Harness chest clip should be at the child’s armpit level. It positions the harness straps on the child’s shoulders, so in the case of a crash the child stays in the safety seat.
  • Place a forward-facing seat in an upright position

Use a top tether strap when installing your seat, whether you are using the seat belt or the lower anchors. This helps prevent the child’s head from moving for-ward. Refer to your vehicle’s owner manual for instructions.


Children should stay in a harnessed seat until they have outgrown the harness; all harnesses go to at least 40 pounds. Children that have outgrown their car seat should ride in the back seat in a belt-positioning booster seat. A booster seat is used with an adult lap and shoulder seat belt. Booster seats should be used until the adult lap and shoulder belt fit the child properly – – that is usually when they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.

Belt-positioning boosters can only be used with lap and shoulder seat belts across the child. The shoulder belt should be snug against the child’s chest, crossing at the collarbone. The lap belt should lay low across the child’s upper thighs.

  • Boosters are used for that “in-between” stage of being too big for a toddler seat and not quite big enough for the adult seat belt.

Booster seats should be used until the child is approximately 4’9″ tall or until they pass the five step test.

Five-step test: If there is a “no” answer to any of these questions, the child still needs a booster.

  1. Sitting tall with entire back touching seat?
  2. Knees bend comfortably at edge of seat?
  3. Shoulder belt crosses the shoulder between arm/neck?
  4. Lap belt lays low across child’s upper thighs?
  5. Can the child sit like this for the entire trip?


If all the answers to the five-step test are “yes” then the child can use the adult lap and shoulder seat belt, without a booster seat. .

  • The shoulder belt should be snug against the child’s chest, crossing at the collarbone.
  • The lap belt should lay low across the child’s upper thighs.
  • Never allow the child to put the shoulder belt behind his/her back or under his/her arm.

Remember, kids should not be allowed to ride in the front seat until they are 13 years old, as in a case of an crash air-bags can cause death or serious injuries.


Have you ever been running late to get somewhere or doing something different from your normal daily routine and been distracted?

Since 1988, approximately 37 children die each year after they were un-knowingly left in a vehicle when the adult went about their business. NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILD ALONE in a car. There is no temperature when it is safe to leave a child alone in a car as their bodies’ heat up 3-5 times faster than an adult’s. Heat stroke, which can cause permanent brain injury or death, occurs when a child’s core body temperature reaches 107 degrees.

Follow these tips so it never happens to you and your child:

  • Dial 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble.
  • Place a cell phone, purse, gym bag, work ID or any other personal belongings that you may need to remove from the car when you have reached your location, on the floor in the backseat, in front of a child. This forces the adult to open the back door and observe the child when they reach for their belongings. Set a reminder on your cell phone, to be sure you dropped your child off at child care.
  • Have a plan that if your child is late to child care, that you will be called within a few minutes. Be especially careful if you change your routine for dropping off kids at child care.
  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open. Children left unattended in a vehicle are at risk of being kid-napped or they can push buttons, disengage the brakes, put the car in gear or even leave the vehicle and walk away.
  • Teach children not to play in any vehicle.
  • Lock all vehicle doors and trunk – especially at home.
  • Check pools, vehicles and trunks FIRST if a child goes missing.


There are more than 100 children that die due to BACK-OVER deaths each year. This is when a person backing up in a car strikes a child, causing fatal injuries. Many of these children simply rushed out to say goodbye to a parent or other loved one. The child does not know that driver cannot see them and the driver  may be unaware that the child has followed him/her outside to the car. A Consumer Report study found that vehicles have rear blind spots as wide as 50 feet, with trucks and vans generally having an even wider blind spot.

Follow these tips so it never happens to your child:

  • Before driving, check the street, driveway and area around your vehicle
  • Children should be taught not to play in, under or around vehicles
  • Supervise children when a driver is leaving the home
  • Adjust the driver’s seat as high as needed to see clearly out the rear window
  • Roll down windows to hear children
  • Adjust side and rear mirrors to reduce blind spots
  • Drivers of trucks and SUVs should be extra careful due to wider blind spots.