Friday, May 15, 2009

Car Seat Safety

Car accidents are the number one cause of death in children over 1 year of age. The proper carseat is your first defense against having your child become a statistic!Most people know that I am obsessed when it comes to the safety of my children....some would say so much as being over protective. (I can hear DH now.... "some???" LOL) But I figure its one thing that I can afford to be obsessed with :)

I sent an email out a few months ago regarding car seat safety. I had seen too many of my friends put their kids in incorrect car seats and I couldn’t just keep this information to myself any longer. That is how this post started, but now I have added even more information to ensure the reader leaves with an understanding on proper car seat usage.

Please share it with friends! You can link to this post directly if that is easier, it is really important that this information gets out!

The vast lack of education that the typical American parent has in regards to carseats is just ridiculous. Our safety standards for carseats are among the lowest in the world. And with car accidents being the number one killer of children, it is about time that we took a few moments to educate ourselves.

Lets first start with the different kinds of car seats and how to choose the best one for your child. (Please note- every car seat is different and the installation and weight/height restrictions vary, please refer to your car seats manual)

Infant Carriers – These are the kinds that typically snap into your stroller. These are rear facing only and hold kids up to around 22 lbs and 29 inches.

Convertible Car seats- These seats can be used rear facing to around 35 lbs and up and forward facing to around 40 lbs/40 inches (some more). These are the safe way to keep your child rear facing past their infant carrier, or can be used in place of the infant carrier as most can seat a child as small as 5 lbs.

Forward Facing Car seats- These seats are recommended for children over 20 lbs, while as you will see I advocate keeping the child rear facing as long as possible, these seats are great for after your child has hit 35 lbs or over your convertible seat’s height restrictions. These seats weights limits vary greatly depending on the seat. The Graco Nautilus, for example harnesses up to 65 lbs (and is a booster up to 100 lbs).

Booster Seats- These seats are a high backed seat that uses the car’s seatbelt as a means to hold the child into the car. These seats don’t teather in and rely only on the seat belt. These seats should only be used after your child has outgrown their forward facing seat. While the limits on these seats say for children over 40 lbs and 40 inches, your child should be much larger before moving into a seat like this.

Backless Boosters- These are for big kids (7-8 and older), who can no longer sit in a booster seat but aren’t quite tall enough to use just the seat belt. These should be used only after all other seats are too small.

Now, how to put your child in a carseat.

-Most seats that hold children up to 40 lbs come equipped with the LATCH system. This system uses tethers and clips to secure the seat into the car. There are 3 tethers, two that go into the bottom of the seat and one on the back of the seat, or sometimes on the floor behind the seat. Cars manufactured after 2000 or so come equipped for the LATCH system. Follow your car seat and car’s instructions for installation.

-For rear facing seats the straps need to be AT or BELOW the child's shoulders. If the child shoulders is not at the lowest strap setting, they are too small for that seat. For forward facing seats the straps should be AT or ABOVE the child's shoulders. If the child's shoulders are past the top slot of the carseat then they are too big for that seat.

-The straps cannot be twisted at all.

-The chest clip needs to be at armpit level.

-The straps need to be tight. Try doing the pinch test. If you can pinch the belt anywhere on the harness then it is too loose. You may need to loosen the straps to get your child in every time, then tighten them up, but it is what is the safest.

- Check your car seat often, tether straps can move and become loose over time, tighten them as often as needed.

Extended Rear Facing
When Little Miss was around 15 months she had reached the recommended age/weight limit to be turned to face forward. The limit that is suggested is 1 year and 20 lbs. Some parents don’t even know that it has to be 1 year AND 20 lbs. But, this is a bare minimum! We weren’t aware and flipped her around to face forward as soon as we could. However, if we would have known that children are 4 to 5 times safer staying rear facing until 35 lbs (when most car seats hit their rear facing maximum) we defiantly would have waited. Here is a crash test that shows the difference between rear and forward facing.

Yes the rear facing is in the front seat (which you should NEVER do) but it shows it side by side.

Extended Harnessing
Extended rear facing is a part of car seat safety is becoming more of common knowledge; however, the next part is the one that most people don’t know about. The current suggested limit for moving your child into a high backed booster seat is 4 years of age and 40 lbs. I see SO many children moved to boosters prior to this limit. In addition to that, this limit is significantly too low! Here is a video depicting a high backed booster with a seatbelt and a child in a 5 point harness, both facing forward. The difference is more than obvious.

You don’t need to buy an expensive carseat to ensure your child’s safety. Little Miss has just outgrown her convertible carseat and we have replaced it with a Graco Nautilus, this carseat harnesses up to 65 lbs and has a booster up to 100 lbs. This carseat was only $150, and I have seen it as low as $120 on There is NO reason for your child to be in a high backed booster or even a simple booster seat until they are over 65 lbs.

"There is no way my (insert age here) child will sit in a carseat!" Here is my almost 4 year old riding comfortably in her "Graco" lol

Also, many children aren’t even in boosters when they should be. Watch this video showing a child using just a seatbelt.

Again, make sure that your child’s carseats are properly installed. Make sure their chest belt is at armpit level and that the belt is tightened so that you can only get a finger in between your child and the belt.

Here are some other videos that I found helpful. Two are from mothers who wished they had this information before, it may have saved their children’s lives.

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear them! Lets keep our children safe!


  1. I'm always shocked by how eager people are to move their kids to the next seat and I'm always upset to see little kids not in any sort of seat. Ack!! Thanks for sharing all the info, Nena. I didn't know all of the points of change between the seats, but I knew we weren't anywhere near one with Alexa being only 16lbs at her last appointment. LOL! So I figured I have time to research it. But you did it for me. YAY!

    April (from SC)

  2. Alexa is so tiny compared to Parker. I could technically turn him around in 2 weeks when he turns 1, because he weighs like 23 lbs, and had this been a few years ago, I would have! I am just glad that now the information is out there and people can keep their little bundles safe!

    Thanks for stopping by, April!

  3. Thanks soooo much for breaking all this down! I really didn't know much past the infant car seat for my babies. They are 18 pounds and 5 1/2 months old. We are trying to figure out what and when to get next. I am also a scrapper! I have also thought about becoming a vegetarian or maybe 75%/25% and would like to bring my twins up on as little animal products as possible. Any suggestions? Thanks for all the info! Yolanda

  4. Yolanda,

    I am glad that you found this information helpful! car seat safety is very important to me, obviously :)

    I honestly don't know much about the vegetarian lifestyle. I try to do what I can to ensure my kids and husband get enough veggies, but I am by no means perfect!

    Good luck with your twins! Let me know if you have any more questions!


Leave me some love!