Lesson 1 – Topic 5 
Use of Child Safety Seats – Child Car Seat Laws

All drivers must be aware of laws and other rules for using child safety seats – even a Teen Driver.  As a young driver, you may be called upon to transport a younger sibling, a niece or nephew, a child you babysit or even your own child, if not now, someday.

The momentum of a sudden stop or crash gives a 20-pound baby a 400-pound force. Because of their delicate bone structure, children need restraints designed especially for them. Child safety seats have significantly reduced infant and toddler deaths. All states require that young children ride only in approved safety seats.

Here are guidelines from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s “Parents Central” web pages.

Car Seat Types

Learn about the four types of car seats for children, while keeping in mind the following tips:

As children grow, how they sit in your car will change. Make sure you use a car seat that fits your child’s current size and age.

Not all car seats fit in all vehicles. Make sure the car seat is the right fit for your vehicle. Test the car seat you plan to buy to make sure it fits well with your vehicle.

Buy a car seat that can be installed and used correctly every time.

A Rear-Facing INFANT Car Seat is the best for young children. It has a harness and, in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord.  Children under 9 months should only use INFANT car seats.  Only after the child has grown out of the INFANT seat, should a larger seat be used.

CREDIT: Virginia DMV – Rear Facing Child Seat Installation

Larger seats can be Rear-Facing or Convertible (either Rear or Forward Facing).  As a child grows, this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether. Because it can be used with children of various sizes, it allows for children to stay in the rear-facing position longer.

CREDIT: Virginia DMV – Rear Facing Convertible Child Seat Installation

Booster seats position the seat belt so that it fits properly over the stronger parts of your child’s body.

CREDIT: Virginia DMV – Child Booster Seat Installation

The time to transition your child out of a booster seat and into a seat belt usually comes when the child is between 8 and 12 years old. Keep your children in booster seats until they outgrow the size limits of the booster seats or are big enough to fit properly in seat belts.

CREDIT: SaferCar.gov – Beyond Booster Seats

Now, let’s review what we need to know about Child Safety Seats:

Children under 5, weighing less than 40 pounds or shorter than 44 inches in height, should ride in a child safety seat.

Children weighing 40-80 pounds and 40 to 55 inches in height should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat.

Properly fitting lap and shoulder belts reduce the potential for belt-induced injury which occur where lap or lap/shoulder belt is a small child’s only restraint.

The child safety seat should be attached to the inside body of the car by a rear seatbelt, and anchored with a tether.

The safest place in the car for a child is in the back seat.

NEVER place children in rear-facing child seats in the front seat of cars equipped with passenger-side air bags. The impact of a deploying air bag striking a rear-facing child seat could result in injury to the child.

ALWAYS put children 12 and under in the rear seat away from the force of a deploying air bag.

*Adults should not hold children on their laps. In a collision, they could crush their children, or the child could be torn from their arms and thrown about the car.

Children should not ride in the luggage section of a station wagon or in the hatchback.

Keep hatchbacks closed when children ride in the back seat, to prevent ejection or possible carbon monoxide poisoning.