Remember This When Buying A Safety Seat

Keeping a child safe inside a vehicle is one of the most basic, yet most complex, responsibilities parents face.

There’s more nuance than simply buying a car seat and strapping them in.

“No one seat is the best, or the safest,” said pediatrician Ben Hoffman, an expert on child safety. “The best seat is the one that fits your child’s size, fits well in your vehicle and can be used properly every time you drive.”

Kids grow out of car seats and restraint systems the same way they do shoes and jeans. But unlike toys and jackets, a child safety seat shouldn’t be a hand-me-down.

Secondhand seats should only be used if they are not expired or recalled, and have all original parts, labels and instructions, Hoffman said.

Below, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers suggestions to keep parents informed and their children safe:

  • Don’t be embarrassed, ask for help: Visit a local safety seat inspection station where a certified technician will inspect the restraint and demonstrate correct installation and use. Inspection stations can be found at
  • Don’t rush it: Keep the child in the car seat as long as they fit within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
  • Stay current: Register the car or booster seat with the manufacturer so you’ll be informed if there’s ever a recall.

The California Office of Traffic Safety places child restraints in one of four categories based on what they do and who should use them.

Stage 1: Rear-facing seats. For newborns and infants, these car seats should tilt the child’s head to a 45-degree angle for comfort and safety. Keep the harness tight so a sudden stop or crash doesn’t jostle them too much. Don’t rush to graduate the little one from the rear-facing seat until they outgrow it. A loose-fitting restraint provides minimal benefit.

Stage 2: Forward-facing seats: Now they are watching you and the world around by facing the same direction as the driver. Harness straps narrower than a standard seat belt better support a childlike frame. Use the seat until your child grows out of the suggested range for weight and height.

Stage 3: Booster seat: This is for children who have outgrown a forward-facing seat but aren’t quite ready for just a seatbelt. The booster seat raises your young one up so the shoulder strap and lap belt properly support them.

Stage 4: Factory vehicle seat belt: Child is tall enough to use the shoulder strap and lap belt properly without a booster seat. They’re a passenger buckled up like everyone else. Stress to them the importance of always wearing a seat belt.