MFD Safety Tips: Car Seat

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In Arizona, motor vehicle collisions are the most common cause of preventable deaths of children. Using the appropriate car seat drastically reduces a child's risk of injury or death.

Maricopa Fire/Medical Department Car Seat Technicians are available on Thursdays from 9:00 to Noon by appointment only to do car seat installations and inspections.

Here are the 4 Steps to ensure your child is safe in your vehicle as they grow.

Step 1: Rear-Facing Car Seats

How and When to Use a Rear-Facing Seat

The first car seat your infant will use is the rear-facing seat.

There are two types of rear-facing seats: an infant seat and a convertible seat.

Children are now supposed to stay in a rear-facing seat until age 2, so a convertible seat (can be positioned to face rear or forward) is a good option and will transition to the next step.

The other option is to first use an infant car seat (which provides an easier way to take your baby in and out of the car) and after your baby outgrows the infant seat, you'll need to buy a convertible car seat.

Facts About Rear-Facing Car Seats

  • Rear-facing car seats best protect your child's head, neck and back.
  • Never put a rear-facing seat in the front seat with an air bag that is turned on.
  • Keep the harness straps snug and keep the plastic harness clip at armpit level.
  • The harness straps should go through the slots that are at or below the level of your child's shoulders.

Step 2: Forward-Facing Car Seats

How and When to Use a Forward-Facing Car Seat

Children may begin riding in a forward-facing car seat when they are at least 2 years old. There are two types of seats that can be used forward facing: a convertible car seat and a combination seat.

Children should ride in a forward-facing car seat with 5-point harness as long as possible and until they are at least 4 years old.

Facts About Forward Facing Car Seats

  • Children can move to a forward-facing car seat when they are at least 2 years old.
  • Keep the harness straps snug and keep the plastic harness clip at armpit level.
  • The harness straps should go through the slots that are at or above the level of your child's shoulders.
  • Use the tether strap that attaches the top of the car seat to a hook in the car.

Step 3: Booster Seats

How and When to Use a Booster Seat

Your child can move from a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness, to a booster seat when they exceed the height or weight limits of the forward-facing car seat and are at least 4 years old.

Children should stay in a booster seat, and in the back seat, until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Only use a booster seat with a lap and shoulder seat belt.

Facts About Booster Seats

  • Your child should sit in a booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.
  • If your car has only lap belts, ask your auto dealership to install shoulder belts.
  • Use a high-back booster seat if your car does not have a head rest.
  • The top of your child's head should be lower than the head rest.

Step 4: When Children Should Use a Seat Belt

How and When to Use a Seat Belt

Your child is ready to move from a booster seat to a seat belt when they are over 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Usually children are between the ages of 8 to 12 when they reach 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

Facts About Seat Belts

  • Children who are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall should use a lap and shoulder seat belt in the back seat of the car.
  • Children must be tall enough to sit with their knees bent over the edge of the seat.
  • The lap belt should fit, low over the thighs and hips and the shoulder belt should fit snug across the shoulder.
  • Never put a shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the child's back.
  • Children under the age of 13 should always ride in the back seat.