Car seats are probably one of the most important parts of parenthood. One of the biggest challenges is correct installation and use of a child safety seat. In Virginia, ALL children under the age of 18 years of age must be properly restrained. To ensure your child is secured properly, see Virginia's child passenger safety laws and ensure car seats are installed correctly.
Car Seat Resources
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Remember, your child's safety begins with you. Set a good example by making sure that you buckle up on every ride. Studies have shown that children are more likely to become lifelong seat belt users when their parents are lifelong seat belt users.
The Virginia Highway Safety Office wants to make sure that all children in Virginia are riding safely in the car. Read on for tips and assistance with transporting your children safely.
Car Seat Tips
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) now recommend that all children should ride rear facing until two years of age or as long as the safety seat manufacturer allows.
- Everyone needs to be properly restrained in a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt. This means one seat belt for each safety seat or person. Do not share seat belts.
- Did you know that an individual is four times more likely to die outside the vehicle than inside? The primary function of the safety seat and seat belt is to prevent ejection.
- Keep in mind that individuals not buckled up can be thrown from the car or around inside the car and seriously injure themselves or others.
- Never hold a child on your lap or allow anyone to ride in the cargo area of a station wagon, van or pickup.
- One of the most asked questions is: "What's the best child safety seat I can buy?" Federal regulations state that all safety seats made in the United States must conform to a specific set of guidelines, so the best seat is the safety seat that fits the child, the vehicle, any special needs of the child and that will be used correctly every time.
- Check safety seat labels for weight and height limitations. This will assist in picking the safety seat that is right for the child.
- Each child safety seat needs to be tightly installed with either a safety belt or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) to hold it in place.
- Check the safety seat instructions and the vehicle owner's manual for basic instructions.
- How "tight" is tight? There should be no more than one inch of side to side or forward movement of the safety seat after installation.
- Use the correct slots on the safety seat for your child. At or slightly below the rear facing infant's shoulders, at or slightly above the forward facing toddler's shoulders.
- Harness straps should be positioned on the child's shoulders and chest, not on the arms. Keep the straps flat on the child's body and snug. The harness straps should be snug enough that you cannot pinch any slack in the straps at the child's shoulders.
- Place the harness retainer clip at armpit level on the child.
- "When is my child ready for a booster seat?" When the child reaches the upper weight and height limits set by the manufacturer of the convertible seat, a belt positioning booster can be considered for use. This forward facing seat requires the use of a lap/shoulder belt and "boosts" the child to better fit the vehicle seat belt system.
- To be able to fit in an adult seat belt the child must: be tall enough to sit without slouching, keep his/her back against the vehicle seat back, keep his/her knees completely bent over the edge of the seat, keep his/her feet flat on the floor, and be able to stay comfortably seated this way. Further, the lap belt must fit low and tight across the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt should rest over the center of the shoulder through the center of the chest.
- Never put the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the child's back. This can cause serious internal injuries in a crash. If the seat belt does not fit properly, the child should use a belt positioning booster.