Correct Use of Child Safety Seats

Infant-only restraints (birth to 18-22 lbs.)

  • Rear-facing only
  • Infants should stay rear-facing until reaching the maximum weight for the child safety seat and until baby's head is 1 inch from the top of the shell
  • Recline seat at  the correct angle; may need to use a rolled up towel or fun noodle
  • Infants tend to outgrow the rear facing weight and height limits of this seat. A seat with greater weight limits in the rear-facing position should be obtained 
  • One-finger test at the shoulder or can't pinch webbing together to check harness fit
  • Harness at or below child’s shoulders
  • Harness retainer clip at armpit level and threaded correctly
  • Harness double threaded back through adjuster slides
  • Carrying handle in the correct position as specified by manufacturer when in use in vehicle
  • No more than one-inch of movement of seat at belt path

Never place a rear-facing infant or convertible seat in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger side air bag!

Convertible restraints (birth to 20-35 lbs. rear-facing and up to 40 lbs. forward-facing)

  • Stay rear-facing until reaching the maximum weight for the child safety seat and child's head is one inch from the top of the child safety seat shell
  • Use correct belt path for rear-facing and forward-facing (no more than inch of movement at belt path)
  • Rear-facing harness straps at or below shoulders. Forward-facing at or above shoulders,   read manufacturers instructions for correct placement
  • Use until middle of child’s ears reach the top of the seat back or shoulders get too broad
  • Move recline adjustment to upright position for forward facing
  • Fasten harness retainer clip at armpit level
  • One-finger test at the shoulders or can't pinch webbing together to check harness fit

Booster Seats (40 lbs. and to about 80-100 lbs.)
3 Types- belt positioning, high back belt positioning and shield booster

No back

  • Boosters (high back or no back) help assist correct fit and use of the vehicle lap and shoulder belt. Lap belt over the child's upper thighs and shoulder belt over center of shoulder
  • Often children are moved directly from a convertible to vehicle safety belts. They should go from a convertible to a booster
  • Shield booster goes to 40 lbs. with shield in place and to a higher weight if the shield is removable. Not recommended because of the lack of upper body protection
  • Belt positioning booster improves the fit of the lap and shoulder belt
  • High back with five point harness - use with harness until 40 lbs., remove harness and use as a belt positioning booster to 80-100 lbs.: provides whiplash protection for children whose ears are above the vehicle seat

Lap/Shoulder Belt (5 step test) Must answer yes to all questions to safely fit in seatbelt system

  • Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
  • Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
  • Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
  • Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
  • Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
ALWAYS READ the manufacturer's instructions to your car seat and owner's manual to your vehicle

Shoulder Belt Adjusters

These devices are not child restraints. They are designed to help adjust the fit of the shoulder belts to make them more comfortable for children and short adults. These devices are also referred to as "after market products". The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not recommend the use of "after market products" because they are not crash tested and no safety standard exists.

  • Shoulder belt adjusters or pads may help with shoulder belt comfort but may put too much slack in the shoulder belt or pull the lap belt up onto the abdomen, which can cause serious internal injuries in a crash.
  • The use of a safety seat or belt-positioning booster is recommended because they are designed to distribute crash forces to the hips and shoulders.
  • Many of these devices are advertised to improve belt fit for adults and children but are not covered by government standards.

* Boosters are a better solution for children who fit them.

Air Bags

  • Never place a rear-facing child safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger side airbag. Back seat is safest for children.
  • Air bags deploy at 160mph.
  • Children 12 and under should ride in the back seat away from airbags; children tend to lean forward and get out of  position putting them in the path of a deploying airbag.
  • Airbags are territorial. They are designed to deploy and then catch the passenger.
  • In instances when a child must sit in the front, they should use the seat belts and/or child restraint appropriate for their weight or size and sit against the back of the vehicle seat. The vehicle seat should be moved as far back from the air bag as practical.

For more information on child safety seats visit these web sites:
Updated 7/08


Safe Kids Nebraska