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Safety and Injuries > Car Seat Safety

Car Seat Safety

Studies show up to 80% of children are in car seats improperly.  Car seat checks are available at police stations, fire stations, and with the highway patrol, all by appointment only.  Bring your children to be sure they are safely in the car!

See the unhappy look of this child with clothing that is too thick to be safe?


How do I use a car seat properly?

  1. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat (CSS) until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their CSS.
  2. Most kids should remain rear facing through the preschool years, but when children have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their CSS, should use a forward-facing CSS with a harness. 
  3. Most children should remain in a 5 point harness for the first part of elementary school. When they outgrow the height or weight limitations of the harness, they should move to a belt-positioning booster seat. 
  4. All children should remain in a booster seat until they can sit in the vehicle's seat safely, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.
  5. When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap-and-shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.
  6. All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection. You must be a teen or adult to sit up front!
  7. Remove all thick clothing and coats before buckling. A car seat cover or blanket can be placed over the belted child.
We encourage all kids under the maximum rear facing car seat weight/height limits to remain rear facing. It is MUCH safer!  When kids turn forward facing, they should remain in the harness until they outgrow the seat's limits.

When Can My Child Ride Without a Car Seat with a 5 point harness? 

Children under 4 years or 40 pounds must be in a 5 point harness by Kansas State Law. After a minimum of 4 years or 40 pounds, they might move to a booster seat legally, but safety experts have stricter criteria. This is because the number one cause of death for children over 4 years is from vehicle crashes.


The current safety standards recommend remaining in the 5 point harness until the size limits of the seat are met (which varies by seat). It is important that your child must be mature enough to remain seated with the belt properly across the chest (not behind the shoulder) and not scooting forward, allowing the belt to lift off the pelvic bone and on to the abdomen. If your child cannot sit properly in a booster, they must remain in a 5-point harness. 


When Can My Child Ride Without a Booster?

Continue to use a booster seat until your child is 4 ft. 9 in., about 80-100 pounds, or between 8 and 12 years old.  This insures that your child is safe in the back seat and is required by Kansas State Law.  Safety experts most often say height is most important.  

Think of an amusement park:  they don't care how old a person is, but the person must be a minimum height to safely ride the roller coaster. Height matters!  

For a quick test to see if your child fits outside a booster, please refer to this 5-point test information.

When Can My Child Ride in the Front Seat?

No child under 13 years old should sit in the front seat. Even a tall younger child/tween does not have the bone strength recommended for front seat impacts. 

You must be a teen or adult to sit up front!  

Size matters too, since not all 13 year olds are tall enough for the air bag to hit in the chest instead of the face. They must also weigh enough if there are automatic sensors to keep the air bag on.  A minimum weight is an easy way for the car companies to estimate size, but there are short heavy kids that are still too small for the air bag. Some parents report that they just turn the air bags off so the kids can sit up front to be safer, but this is not safe. Why did they design air bags in the first place? Front seat passengers have a much higher injury/death rate in accidents. Back is always safest, and when a person is sized correctly they can sit with a working air bag in the front.


Other Car Seat Tips:

The handle of an infant seat should be up or down while driving according to manufacturer directions. The Car Seat Lady has great information on Carrier Handle Positioning.

Make sure seat belt fits snugly, so only 1-2 fingers can slip underneath.  

Never use multiple layers of clothing or thick coats in a car seat.  Cover your baby or child with a blanket or car seat cover if it is cold outside, but remove it as the car warms up. The Car Seat Lady has layering tips and excellent safety information for car seat use in winter weather.

If you are in a car accident, you must replace your car seats.  Check with your insurance company for information on cost reimbursement.

Never purchase a used car seat - you cannot verify if it has been accident free.  It is illegal to sell a used car seat... do not put yours up for sale in the garage sale!

A car seat should not move more than an inch from side to side.

Have an identification sticker on your car seats. Need one? Just ask when in our office!

Some car seats now offer a load leg. For more information, see the Car Seat Lady's Load Leg page.

What about car seat checks?

If uncertain how to put in car seat, call the fire department, local police department, or the highway patrol.  The City of Overland Park offers free car seat checks the first Wednesday of each month from 8am to 4pm.  RSVP is required.  

You can also use Safe Kids to find a car seat check site near you!

Register your seat!

Register all new car seats so that the company will notify you if there is a recall.  See The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration site for information about registering.

Where can I learn more about car seat safety?

State by state car seat and booster seat laws are available on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration site. WARNING: Laws don't necessarily meet safety standards. 

Dr Stuppy shared updated safety tips in September 2017 at Car Seats for Safety. She has a new blog, posted September 5, 2018 on the newest AAP recommendations

Car Seat Safety Tips from Healthy Children.

The Car Seat Lady has many pages of tips for choosing seats, traveling by plane/bus/and trains, and more!

Why does a child under 4 ft 9 inches need a booster?  Click here.

Picture Guide to Car Seat Safety - 2017

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