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Car Seat Safety

Traveling safely with children – what you need to know


Choose the RIGHT car seat for your child

There is no one “best” car seat for your child; choose the one that best fits your child. The longer you can leave your child in the most secure position, the safer your child will be. Keep these points in mind when shopping:

  • Purchasing a safety seat with higher weight limits may allow your child to ride safer for longer.
  • Use your child’s size as the guide to moving him/her into a forward-facing booster or seat belt. Age isn’t as important as how well the seat or safety belt fits your child.
  • Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible.
  • All new car seats and booster seats come with a registration form so you can be notified of recalls.
  • If your seat doesn’t have a registration card, contact the manufacturer.

Rear-facing car seats

  • The rear-facing position is the SAFEST for infants and toddlers.
  • All children under age 2 should ride rear-facing.
  • Use a rear-facing convertible seat when the child outgrows the infant seat.
  • Make sure the harness retainer clip is at armpit level.
  • Harnesses are most effective when not used with extra layers of clothing.
  • Never place a rear-facing child restraint in front of an airbag.
  • Always read the owner’s manual instructions for properly installing a child safety seat.
  • Check regularly to make sure your child meets the safety seat height and weight requirements.

Forward-facing car seats

  • Laws and recommendations vary, but children should move into a forward-facing safety seat when they are at least 2 years old.
  • Children should remain in a forward-facing child restraint with a full harness until they reach the top weight and height allowed by the safety seat.
  • It’s safer for a child to remain in a harness as long as possible.
  • Choose the harness slot at or above the shoulders.
  • Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for the highest weight allowed by the harness.

Booster seats 

  • If a child has reached the top weight and/or height limit for a forward-facing seat, it’s time to transition to a belt-positioning booster seat.
  • When a booster seat is correctly positioned, the seat belt fits over the shoulders and hips much like an adult seat belt fit.
  • Children should ride in a booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle until they are at least 4-feet, 9-inches (57 inches) tall, usually around age 9.

Seatbelts

  • Children under age 13 should ride in the back seat.
  • There must be one safety belt for each person.
  • Seat belts can be used for children when:
    • They can stay in position for the entire ride and keep the lap belt low and snug across the upper thighs/lower hips.
    • They can sit with back and hips against the seat back and sit without slouching.
    • The child can bend his/her knees easily over the front edge of the seat with feet flat on the floor.

Install your child’s car seat correctly – call for help

To make SURE your child’s car seat is installed correctly, contact The Children’s Resource Center at Niswonger Children’s Hospital to schedule an appointment – (423) 431-4891 or crcinfo@balladhealth.org.


This information contains guidelines for both Tennessee and Virginia. For more information, call the Department of Transportation (DOT) Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-DASH-2-DOT.