Planning a summer road trip? Keep your child safe in the right car seat

July 21, 2021
Kids health
5 min read

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The warm weather is here and many families are planning vacations.

If you and your family will be hitting the road this summer, make sure to keep your child safe by properly using the correct car seat for your child's weight and age and follow Pennsylvania law.

There are three major types of car seats:

  • Rear-facing car seats,
  • Convertible
  • All-in-one

Convertible car seats can be rear-facing or forward-facing. All-in-one car seats can be rear-facing, forward-facing, and later converted into a booster seat.

Infants and toddlers should continue to be rear-facing until they outgrow the height and weight limit indicated by the manufacturer. It is common for children under two years old to remain rear-facing. Children over two years old should also remain rear-facing until the manufacturer's limitation.  If your child outgrows the rear-facing only seat, you should change to a convertible seat that will allow your child to stay rear-facing for a longer time.

If your child outgrows the manufacturer's limitation for rear-facing on the convertible seat, they should be forward-facing with a 5 point harness as long as allowed by the manufacturer.

When your child outgrows the 5 point harness indicated by the manufacturer, they can use a belted booster seat forward facing. Keep your child in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.  This will prevent cutting at the neck and injury from the seat belt.  This is usually used when a child reaches approximately 4 foot 9 inches.

All children younger than 13 years old should ride in the back seat.  This prevents severe injury from airbags. Airbags open with great force, which is okay for adults and bigger kids but can be dangerous for small children.

Before buying a car seat or booster seat, make sure to read the labels carefully. Look for the weight, height, and age limits to make sure the car seat is right for your child. Select a seat that fits your car and your budget, and use it every time. Use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Car Seat Finder to compare car seats and ease-of-use ratings.

Avoid buying a used car seat. Used car seats are unsafe if they have been in a crash, have missing parts, labels, or instructions, or if they have been recalled and have not been repaired.

It is important to secure your child's car seat correctly in your vehicle. There are two ways to secure a car seat in a vehicle: using the vehicle seat belt and LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children). Read the instructions carefully to determine which method will work best for your vehicle.

If you have questions or need help installing your car safety seat, find a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST or CPS technician). Lists of certified CPSTs and child seat–fitting stations are available at the following website:

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