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Newborn Basics

Q&A: Car Seat Safety?

I’m nervous about driving with baby in the car. How can I make sure she’s safe?

The most important thing you can do? Strap the little one into a car seat! ( The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) agree.) But are you doing it correctly? Here are a few tips:

Look for a good fit
Make sure the seat fits in your car as snugly as possible to the vehicle’s seat once it’s latched in. Vehicles and child safety seats made after September 1, 2002, are compatible with the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system, which makes it easy to install the seat without seat belts. Hospitals won’t let you take baby home without a properly installed car seat, so take time to install pre-birth.

Read the instructions
We know it’s tempting to just figure it out, but please don’t. Read the instruction manuals for both your vehicle and your car seat. (Check your seat belt labels for any advisories too.)

Babies to the back
If baby is younger than two years old or has not reached the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer, he should be riding in a rear-facing seat. Also, keep baby in the back seat, particularly if your car has a passenger air bag, which most models do nowadays.

Keep them seated
From age two until they reach the maximum height or weight, children should ride in a forward-facing seat. After that, until they’re about eight years old, or 4 feet 9 inches, use a belt positioning booster seat. Once they’ve outgrown the booster, they should use a lap-and-shoulder seat belt in the backseat.

Make sure it's locked
If your seat belts don't have an automatic locking mechanism, you can purchase a locking clip to be sure baby is secure.

Get it snug
Be sure the car seat fits as snugly as possible to the vehicle's seat. Press on the seat, and pull the seatbelt until it is as tight as possible.

Get an inspection
Head to your local NHTSA office to get your seat-installing skills checked out. They maintain Child Car Seat Inspection Stations in every state to assist new parents.

Drive safely
Set a good example for your little one by always remembering to buckle up. After that, car safety is up to you and your defensive driving skills.

Plus more from The Bump:

How to Buy a Car Seat

Top Ten Car Seats


By The Bump Editors