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Driving Safely with Children
12/11/09

Rear-Facing
Children should face the rear of the vehicle until they are at least 1 year of age and weigh at least 20 lb.  Infants who weigh 20 lb. before 1 year of age should ride rear facing in a convertible seat or infant seat approved for higher weights until at least 1 year of age.

Convertible Seats
A convertible safety seat is positioned rear facing for a child 1 year of age and at least 20 lb. and can be changed to forward facing when the child is 40 lb. and can be used until the child no longer appropriately fits in the seat.  To determine a good fit, the child's tops of ears are below the top of the car seat and the child's shoulders are below the seat strap slots.  When changing the seat to face forward, there are three adjustments that need to be made:

  1. Move the shoulder straps to the slots that are at or above your child's shoulders.  Check your car safety seat for instructions.
  2. Move the seat from reclined to upright position if required by the manufacture of the safety seat.
  3. Make sure the seat belt is running through the forward-facing belt path.

Booster Seat
A booster seat should be used when a child has grown out of a convertible seat but is not quite big enough for the car's safety belts.  To know if your child is ready to use the vehicle safety belts, the correct positioning would have the shoulder belt positioned across the chest with the lap belt low and snug across the thighs; the child's back should be against the vehicle's seat and their knees should be bent having their feet hanging down.

Parents should be aware that the rear vehicle seat is the safest place for children of any age to ride.

The combination of age and weight needs to be the determining factor when deciding to keep your child in his or her existing safety seat or graduating to a larger seat.

Your child is ready to use a seatbelt when the belt fits properly.  This means:

  1. The shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulders, not the neck or throat.
  2. The lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, not the stomach.
  3. The child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with his legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and can stay in this position comfortably throughout a trip.

Things to Remember:

  1. Never place a child in a rear-facing car safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an airbag.
  2. Remember that each car safety seat is different.  Read and keep the instructions that came with your seat.
  3. Remember to never tuck the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the back.
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