What are the Basic Guidelines for Proper Safety Seat Use?

Hints on using your infant car seat correctly:

  • Tightly install child seat in back seat, facing the rear. The infant seat should not move more than an inch side-to-side at the seat belt pathway.
  • Infant seat should recline at approximately a 45-degree angle.
  • Harness straps/slots at or below shoulder level (lower set of slots for most convertible child safety seats).
  • Harnesses should be a snug fit. You should only be able to fit one finger between your child and the harness.
  • Be careful about attaching toys to harness straps or using mobiles to keep the infant occupied. The addition of hard objects is not recommended as they can injure the child in the event of a crash or sudden stop.

Are You Using a Second-Hand Car Safety Seat? Double-Check Everything!

A new car safety seat is best. However, if you must get a used seat, shop very carefully. To tell if a used car safety seat is safe, keep the following points in mind:
Do not use a car safety seat that:

  • Is too old. Look on the label for the date it was made. If it is more than 5 years old, it should not be used. Some manufacturers recommend that car safety seats only be used for 5-6 years. Check with the manufacturer to find out how long the company recommends using their seat.
  • Was in a crash. It may have been weakened and should not be used, even if it looks fine. Do not use a car safety seat if you do not know its full history.
  • Does not have a label with the date of manufacture and seat name or model number. Without these, you cannot check on recalls.
  • Does not come with instructions. You need to know how to use the car safety seat. Do not rely on the former owner’s directions. Get a copy of the instruction manual from the manufacturer before you use the seat.
  • Has any cracks in the frame of the seat.
  • Is missing parts. Used car safety seats often come without important parts. Check with the manufacturer to make sure you can get the right parts.

Has Your Car Safety Seat Been Recalled?

  • You can find out by calling the manufacturer or the Auto Safety Hot Line at 1-888-DASH-2-DOT (1-888-327-4236), from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm ET, Monday through Friday.
  • If the infant car seat has been recalled, follow the instructions to fix it or return it.
  • Another good resource is NHTSA at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
  • Get a registration card for future recall notices for your model.
  • Send in your registration card.

Know the history of a hand-me-down! Even if there was a car crash at 5 miles per hour, a child car seat should not be used again.