How to ensure car seat safety for young children

In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death for children. No matter the age of your children, there’s no denying that ensuring car seat safety is an absolute must. Here are some vital steps to follow if you want to ensure that your child is safely riding in your vehicle. 

How to determine if your child is ready for a front-facing car seat

When it comes to transitioning your young child from a rear-facing car seat into a front-facing car seat, you want to be sure that you are following your car seat manufacturer’s guidelines for weight and age requirements. Here is a breakdown of general requirements for car seats based on age group. 

Infants and toddlers

It is recommended that infants and toddlers remain in a rear-facing car seat until at least the age of 2, but many parents wait even longer, such as age 3 or 4. To determine if your child is ready to transition from a rear-facing to a front-facing car seat, look at the manual that came with your rear-facing car seat to determine the weight limit of the seat. Once your child has outgrown this weight limit, and they have reached at least the age of two, this means they are ready to switch to front facing. 

Preschool age children

Preschool age children who have outgrown the rear-facing car seat should transition to a front-facing car seat. Young children should remain in their car seat for as long as possible, depending on the weight requirements of your unique car seat. Most car seats can accommodate young children up to 65 pounds, but this will vary so check the manual of your car seat to be sure. 

School age children

Once your child has exceeded the weight limit of their front-facing car seat, they can now transition to a booster style car seat. Booster car seats are used to help with belt positioning for the time between when children are too big for a regular car seat but still too small for the regular seat belt. The typical guidelines for children to transition out of a booster seat and start riding without any type of car seat is when they are at least 8 to 12 years of age, and at minimum, 4 feet and 9 inches tall. Children should continue riding in the backseat of the car until the age of 13. 

How to properly strap your young child into their car seat

Every car seat comes with a unique style of straps and harnesses, so the proper adjustment of the straps will vary depending on the brand and style of car seat that you have chosen for your child. Always ensure that straps are snug against your child but not too tight. If your car seat features a shoulder strap, be sure that it is positioned at the armpit level and is never pressing up against their neck. 

How to properly install a car seat

There are two main ways that car seats are installed, either with the vehicle's seat belt or using a LATCH system. LATCH stands for "lower anchors and tethers for children" and represents the anchors that exist beneath the car seats of most cars. These anchors are used to strap the car seat down and secure it to the vehicle. Front facing car seats will include a top tether as well as a lower anchor. Always utilize the top tether as well as the lower anchor to secure your young child’s car seat. Some parents find it easier to use the LATCH system to install their carseat, rather than the seatbelts but both are equally secure so this decision is purely based on your preference. 

You can find the LATCH anchors between the seat cushions of your vehicle and on the upper panel behind the seat. The forward facing car seat that you choose will come with unique installation instructions, always follow these instructions closely as they will include any specific considerations for your car seat model. All forward facing car seats will come equipped with tethers that connect to the LATCH anchors. 

Types of forward facing car seats

There are a few main types of forward facing car seats to choose from including all-in-one or convertible car seats, combination seats, and integrated seats. 

All-in-one car seats

All-in-one or convertible car seats are a wise investment for any parent, as this is a car seat that you will get plenty of use out of. Convertible car seats can be used as rear facing and front facing, so they can follow your child through many years of life. Some parents worry about all-in-one car seats being safe for young infants, since they can also fit much larger children. All car seats will come with unique size requirements but generally these car seats are designed for babies and children ranging from infancy up into toddlerhood and childhood, so they should be perfectly safe for younger babies as well. 

Combination seats

Combination car seats are a great option for toddlers and older children. This style of car seat can start as a regular front facing car seat for a younger child and can transition into a booster style car seat for older children. As a versatile option, combination seats are another great option as your child will be able to use this style of car seat for many years. 

Integrated car seats

Some vehicles come equipped with child booster seats that fold out from the vehicle’s rear seats. Be sure to check your vehicle's user manual to ensure your child has met the recommended height and weight requirements before utilizing this style of car seat. Choosing to buy a vehicle with integrated car seats can save some time and energy by giving you one less item to worry about purchasing. 

Additional safety tips

  • Always make sure that everyone riding in your vehicle is safely strapped in. 
  • Utilize child window locks when necessary. 
  • It is frequently recommended to use a rear facing car seat for as long as possible.
  • Remove bulky clothing such as coats before strapping young children into their car seats as these items can press on the neck and cause suffocation. 
  • If you have any doubts or questions about the safety of your car seat, you can find a local car seat specialist who can come check the safety of your car seat for you. 

The Pop N’ Go Playpen is a spacious playpen for children of all ages that can be easily transported in your vehicle and utilized at all of your destinations after a safe car ride!