Car Seat and Child Safety

It's vitally important that your child is safely secured in the proper restraint system in your vehicle. And these regulations can change. One such change has recently gone into effect in Pennsylvania. This new legislation requires young children to ride in rear-facing car seats until age two (2). Previously, the age was one (1). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these kinds of seats will better protect young children in car crashes.

There are laws governing child restraints for children up to 12 years of age. PA law requires that children under four are restrained in an approved child passenger restraint system (such as a car seat), and for children between four and eight years of age be restrained in a booster seat. Additionally, children 12 and under should never be in the front seat of a vehicle.

It's been estimated that 4 out of 5 child safety seats are installed incorrectly, and approximately 40% of children under the age of eight who are injured in car crashes are unbelted. This often leads to fatal accidents. So in addition to ensuring your child is in the proper restraint system, it's important to make sure the seats are installed in the car correctly, and that the child is properly strapped into the seat.

There are several stations around the state and the US where you can have your child car seat evaluated for safety and be shown how to install it properly. Generally, this service is offered at little or no cost to you. You can find a location nearby here:

Here are some basic tips about installing car seats in your vehicle:

  • Read the car seat instruction manual and the portion of your vehicle's owner's manual on car seat installation.
  • Every car seat needs to be installed using either the lower anchors of the LATCH system or the seat belt to secure it in place. If you choose to use a seat belt to install your car seat, pay close attention to how to lock your seat belt in the vehicle owner's manual. Because every car seat and vehicle is different, it's important to follow all instructions carefully.
  • Place the car seat in the back seat of your vehicle and follow the manufacturer's installation directions. The car seat must be secured tightly in the vehicle. It should not move side-to-side or front-to-back more than 1 inch when pulled at the belt path.
  • If it is a forward-facing seat and has a top tether strap, connect it to the tether anchor and tighten. This step is very important as it limits forward head movement in a crash. If it is a rear-facing seat, make sure the car seat is installed at the correct recline angle. Most car seats have built in angle indicators or adjustors that help with this step.

And some tips on how to correctly fit your child into the car seat:

  • Properly position the harness on your child.
    • Rear-facing - Harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be placed through the slot that is at or below your child's shoulders.
    • Forward-facing - Harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be placed through the slot that is at or above your child's shoulders.
  • Buckle the harness and the chest clip and tighten. The harness is snug enough when extra material cannot be pinched at the shoulder. Children should not have bulky snowsuits or jackets on that keep the straps from being tight to the body.
  • Make sure the chest clip is at armpit level.

Just a few tips and tricks to keep your kids safe, from the Attorneys at the Pagano Law Firm.