Car Seat Safety Tips: How to Choose and Install the Right Car Seat

Having a child safety seat is necessary, and legally required, for keeping infants, toddlers, and children safe while driving. According to, “car crashes are the leading cause of death and injury among children.” A federally approved child safety seat can help protect children in the event of an accident, so it’s important to choose the right one and make sure it’s installed correctly to keep your child safe. Here are some tips that will help you pick the right car seat and install it properly.

Picking a Car Seat

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a government agency in the Department of Transportation responsible for a wide range of automotive safety standards, recommends that a car seat be picked based on the child’s age and size.

Of course, some car seats will fit better in certain vehicles. Julie Mansfield, along with her colleagues at the Injury Biomechanics Research Center at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, found that “nearly 42 percent of rear-facing child seats will not sit at the proper angle.” She suggests measuring the amount of space available and the seat’s potential angle. She also mentions checking your owner’s manual for any headrest requirements, and testing the car seat, if possible, before purchasing.

If your car seat is more than 6 years old, it has likely expired and you will need to purchase a new one. It is common that each person in your family that frequently drives your child around has a car seat in their car. This can get expensive quickly, so many people turn to previously owned car seats. If you receive a preowned car seat, make sure to ask if the car seat has ever been in an accident. If it has, it should be disposed or recycled.

According to the NHTSA, kids will need different car seats as they age and grow. There are generally three main types of seats: rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. The NHTSA recommends that children ride in a rear-facing car seat up to age two; that they use a forward-facing seat up to age six; and that they sit in a booster seat up to age eleven. Some children grow at different paces so your child may transition slower or fast than the average standard. Ask you pediatrician if you have any concerns when your child should transition. Your state may also have laws that dictate how long a child must ride in a specific car seat.

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Installing the Car Seat

Installing a car seat can be a little confusing and time consuming. Ray, a retired police officer and certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician, provides some tips on how to install a car seat correctly.

Along with our video, it’s important to follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions. You can also read your vehicle’s owners’ manual for additional tips on how to install a seat in your car. In some cases it may provide certain requirements for the seat.

Inspecting the Car Seat

An inspected car seat will ensure that your child is safe as you drive. If you want expert help installing the seat, you can always have a CPS technician show you how. Find a location near you on the NHTSA site or by filling out a form on the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Training Program’s website. Many police and fire stations offer free inspections, for your convenience and peace of mind.

Registering Your Car Seat

While car seat designs must follow regulated federal safety guidelines, sometimes there are recalls. You can register online to ensure you’ll be notified and aware if you need a new seat or if your child’s seat is no longer safe to ride in.

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