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Important tips on car seats

Read information on using car seats based on age and seat type

Car safety checklist

  • Check the labels and owner's manual to make sure you have the right car seat for your child. Check the height and weight limits.
  • Check the date of manufacture on the seat label or owner's manual to make sure that it has not expired.
  • Keep kids rear-facing for as long as possible until they outgrow the height and weight limits, which usually occurs around age 2 or later.
  • Make sure the chest clip is at armpit level and the harness straps are secured on shoulders.
  • Loose items is car are stowed away.
  • Do the pinch test: Pinch the straps vertically at the collarbone. If you can grab excess slack between your fingers and pinch it, the straps are too loose. 
  • Use a top tether when installing the car seat in the forward-facing mode.
  • The car seat should not move more than 1 inch in any direction when shaken where the seat belt or lower anchors hold the car seat.
  • Once your child outgrows a harness car seat, usually around 5 years of age, keep him/her in a booster seat until they are taller than 57 inches (4 feet, 9 inches)
  • Keep kids in the back seat until they are 13 years old. 

Rear-facing seats

Birth - 12 months

  • Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing.
  • Convertible and all-in-one car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.

1 - 3 Years of Age

  • Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It is the best way to keep him or her safe.
  • Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until her or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. 
  • Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, you child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.

Forward-facing seats

1 - 3 Years of Age

  • Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It is the best way to keep him or her safe.
  • Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until her or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. 
  • Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, you child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.

4 - 7 Years of Age

  • Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
  • Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether, it is time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

Booster seats

4 - 7 Years of Age

  • Massachusetts state law requires that your child be secured in a federally approved belt-positioning booster seat until 8 years of age or is over 57 inches (4 feet, 9 inches) tall. 
  • Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. 

Additional Resources for Booster seats

Seat belts

8 - 12 years of Age

  • For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach.
  • The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not across the neck or face.
  • Remember - your child should still ride in the back because it is safer there. 

Winter safety tips

Do you know that kids should never wear their winter coats when riding in their car seats?

In order for a car seat to function properly, the straps need to remain tight against the child's chest and winter coats make that very difficult.

Consider these alternatives for keeping your child warm in your car during the cold months:

  • Preheat your car.
  • Put a coat on your child backwards after the harness is properly tightened.
  • Cover your child with a blanket.

If you are unsure that your child is strapped in properly, try using "the pinch test." With your thumb and index finger, pinch the harness near the child's collarbone. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing when you pinch the strap, the harness is considered snug enough. 

Additional Resources for Winter safety tips

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