As a parent one of the most important jobs you have is keeping your child safe when riding in a vehicle. Thousands of injuries and even deaths occur every year across the country in vehicle crashes. Using a car seat properly can help keep children safe. However, with so many car seat options it’s easy to understand why parents can become overwhelmed when buckling in their child or children.
The type of seat your child needs depends on several things, including your child's age, size, and developmental needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP has these recommendations about choosing the most appropriate car seat for your child.
Age Group: Infants and Toddlers
· Type of Seats: Rear-facing-only seats, convertible seats (used rear-facing), 3-in-1 seats (used rear-facing)
All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will permit children to ride rear-facing seats for two years or more.
Age Group: Toddlers and Preschoolers
· Type of Seat: Convertible, forward-facing with harness
Children who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their convertible seat should use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, at least to 4 years of age and up to the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer.
Age Group: School-Aged Children
· Type of Seat: Booster seats
All children whose weight or height exceeds the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches and are between 8 to 12-years-old. All children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat.
Age Group: Older Children
· Type of Seat: Seat Belts
When children are old enough and large enough for the vehicle seat belt to fit them correctly, they should always use a lap and shoulder seat belt for the best protection. All children younger than 13-years-old should ride in the back seat.
You can find detailed information about which car seat or booster seat is best for your children by clicking here.
The Tennessee Highway Safety Office is working to help parents keep their children safe while riding. Parents can find the right car seat on the department’s web site as well as a list of free resources for families. Click here to view that list.
For a list of child safety seat inspection stations in Tennessee click here and here. You can also visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website for locations across the state.
Some families may struggle with the cost of purchasing a car seat. Here are a few resources that may be able to provide free and reduced price car seats.
· Local Safe Kids Coalition- Many Safe Kids coalitions supply free or reduced price seats or can recommend where they can be found in your area. To find a local coalition, please check the Safe Kids website.
· Local fire and police departments- Even though not all firefighters and police officers are certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians, these public servants can often direct you to local resources.
· Local hospitals
· Local Health Departments
· The Tennessee Department of Health’s Injury Prevention Program (615-532-9154)
It is NOT recommended that you purchase or use a used car seat. The history of these seats are unknown.
Do you have a car seat that your family no longer needs? Consider a trade-in program like the one Target launched in April, 2018.