Car seat safety is one of the most important issues parents must consider, and one area in which there should be no compromise. But understanding the proper use and best practices can be hard, especially as standards and recommendations change. Here are some laws and basic guidelines for best practices in car seat safety:
As a starting point, be sure you are familiar with car seat laws, which vary slightly by state. Most child seat safety laws are primary, meaning police may stop vehicles solely for child safety seat violations.
Here are the main laws of which you should be aware:
In North Carolina, children younger than 7 years old and weighing less than 80 pounds must ride in a car seat or booster, and they should not switch to a seatbelt until they exceed either the age or weight requirements (whichever comes first). Children 4 years and younger who weigh less than 40 pounds must be in the rear seat unless the front passenger airbag is deactivated or the restraint is designed for use with airbags.
In South Carolina, children younger than 1 year old or less than 20 pounds should travel in a rear-facing child restraint, and children ages 1 through 5 weighing 20 to 39 pounds should travel in a forward-facing child restraint. Children ages 1 through 5 weighing 40 to 80 pounds should travel in a booster seat secured by lap-shoulder belt (a lap belt alone is impermissible).
Though these aren’t official laws, the following are recommendations for child safety:
Infant car seats should remain rear-facing until the child is 2 years old or exceeds the height/weight limit of the seat restraints.
Once they outgrow rear-facing restraints, children should ride in a harness-equipped forward-facing child restraint for as long as possible, up to the height and weight limit of the child restraint. Top tethers should be used whenever a child restraint is installed forward-facing.
Children whose weights or heights are above the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when reaching 4-feet, 9-inches in height and between 8 and 12 years old.
Owners should register their car seats to remain aware of any recall notices or safety alerts.
Owners should know the model and date of manufacture number in order to be able to check for recalls online.
If purchasing a used car seat, take note of the warranty expiration date and crash history. Do not buy an expired seat or a seat that has been in a crash.
Consider having your car seat installed by an expert. In most towns, this service is offered at the fire or police departments.
AAA is a huge safety advocate. We encourage parents to go to great lengths to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their children. For guidelines on how to properly use car seats, check out these demonstrative videos. With proper car seat installation and use, you are greatly increasing the safety of your child in the majority of travel situations.