Never use a car seat that:
- Has any visible cracks on it.
- Is too old. Look on the label for the date the seat was made. Check with the manufacturer to find out how long it recommends using the seat.
- Does not come with instructions. You need them to know how to use the seat. Instructions can be found on manufacturer websites or by contacting the manufacturer.
- Does not have a label with the date of manufacture and model number. Without these, you cannot check to see if the seat has been recalled.
- Is missing parts. Used car safety seats often come without important parts. Check with the manufacturer to make sure you can get the right parts.
- Was recalled. You can find out by calling the manufacturer or contacting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- Have been in a moderate or severe crash. Seats that were in a minor crash may still be safe to use, but some car safety seat manufacturers recommend replacing the seat after any crash, even a minor one. You can consider a crash minor if all the following situations are true:
- The vehicle door closest to the car safety seat was not damaged.
- The vehicle could be driven away from the crash.
- You can’t see any damage to the car safety seat.
- No one in the vehicle was injured.
- The airbags did not go off.
Be a good role model. Make sure you always wear your seat belt. It will help your child form a lifelong habit of buckling up.
Make sure that everyone who transports your child uses the correct car safety seat or seat belt on every trip, every time. Being consistent with car safety seat use is good parenting, reduces fussing and complaints, and is safest for your child.
Never leave your child alone in or around cars, and lock your vehicle when it is not in use. Any of the following situations can happen when a child is left alone in or around a vehicle. A child can:
- Be strangled by power windows, retracting seat belts, sunroofs, or accessories.
- Die of heat stroke because temperatures can reach deadly levels in minutes.
- Be backed over when the vehicle backs up.
- Knock the vehicle into gear, setting it into motion.
- Become trapped in the trunk of the vehicle.
Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your car safety seat. If you do not have those, write or call the company’s customer service department. Staff will ask you for the model number, name of seat, and date of manufacture. The manufacturer’s address and phone number are on a label on the seat. Also, be sure to follow the instructions in your vehicle owner’s manual about using car safety seats. Some manufacturers’ instructions may be available on their websites.
Front airbags are installed in all new cars. When used with seat belts, airbags work well to protect teenagers and adults; however, airbags can be very dangerous to children, particularly to those riding in rear-facing seats and to preschoolers and young school-aged children who are not properly restrained. If your vehicle has a front passenger airbag, infants in rear-facing seats must ride in the back seat. Even in a relatively low-speed crash, the airbag can inflate, strike the car safety seat, and cause serious brain injury and death.
Vehicles with no back seat or a back seat that is not made for passengers are not the best choice for traveling with small children; however, the airbag can be turned off in some of these vehicles if the front seat is needed for a child passenger. See your vehicle owner’s manual for more information.
Side airbags are available in most new cars. Side airbags improve safety for adults in side-impact crashes. Read your vehicle owner’s manual for more information about the airbags in your vehicle. Read your car safety seat instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual for guidance on placing the seat next to a side airbag.
If your child is being driven by someone else, make sure:
- The car safety seat your child will be using fits properly in the vehicle used for transport.
- The car safety seat being used is appropriate for the age and size of your child.
- The person in charge of transporting your child knows how to install and use the car safety seat correctly.
Child care programs and schools should have written guidelines for transporting children, including:
- All drivers must have a valid driver’s license. In some states, school bus drivers need to have a special type of license.
- Staff to child ratios for transport should meet or exceed those required for the classroom.
- Every child should be supervised during transport, either by school staff or a parent volunteer, so the driver can focus on driving.
- School staff, teachers, and drivers should know what to do in an emergency, know how to properly use car safety seats and seat belts, and be aware of other safety requirements.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends that children less than 40 pounds be securely fastened in certified child restraints when flying. This will help keep them safe during takeoff and landing or in case of turbulence. Most rear-facing, convertible, and forward-facing seats can be used on airplanes, but booster seats and travel vests cannot.
Read your seat’s instruction manual and look for a label on the car safety seat that says, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” You can also consider using a restraint made only for use on airplanes and approved by the FAA. Larger children may use the airplane seat belt or continue to use their car safety seat on the airplane as long as it is labeled for use on aircraft and the child has not exceeded the seat’s weight or height limit. Remember that your child will need an appropriate car safety seat to use at your destination.