Child Safety Seats

Child Safety Seat Usage Tips

While riding in a motor vehicle, Oregon law requires children who weigh forty pounds or less to be secured with a child safety system. This law also applies to children who are over forty pounds and are shorter than four feet nine inches tall. We know that when properly installed and used, child safety seats save children’s lives. The St. Helens Police Department strongly recommends that you consider these safety seat rules as suggested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Does the child ride facing the right way?

Infants must ride in rear-facing restraints, preferably in the back seat, until age 1 and at least 20 pounds. Infants who weigh 20 pounds before 1 year of age should ride in a restraint approved for higher rear-facing weights. Always read the child restraint owner manual for instructions on properly using the restraint.

Children over age 1 and at least 20 pounds may ride facing forward.

Does a child over 40 pounds have the best protection possible?

Keep the child in a safety seat with a full harness as long as possible, at least until he or she weighs 40 pounds. At that point, change to a belt-positioning booster seat, which helps the adult lap and shoulder belt fit better.

A belt-positioning booster seat is preferred for children between 40 to 80 pounds. Check on special products for heavy children who are too active to sit still in a booster.

How should a safety belt fit an older child?

The child must be tall enough to sit without slouching, with knees bent at the edge of the seat and feet on the floor. The lap belt must fit low and tight across the upper thighs. The shoulder belt should rest over the shoulder and across the chest. Never put the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the child’s back. The adult lap and shoulder belt system alone will not fit most children until they are at least 4′ 9″ tall and weigh about 80 pounds.

Remember: One Person, One Belt

A child should never be held on an adult’s lap because the grownup could crush him or her in a collision. Even if the adult wears a safety belt, the child would be torn from his or her arms in a crash. A parent should also never wrap a shoulder harness or seat belt around a child on the adult’s lap. Two people with one belt around them could injure each other.

The cargo area of a station wagon, van, or pickup is a very dangerous place for anyone to ride. Anyone riding in the bed of a pickup truck, even under a canopy, could be thrown out.

Does the car have an air bag for the front passenger seat?

An infant or child could be seriously injured or killed by an inflating air bag. A passenger air bag can seriously harm a child riding in the front seat of the car. Many new cars have air bags for the right front seat. Air bags work with lap/shoulder belts to protect teens and adults. To check whether the vehicle has air bags, look for a warning label on the sun visor or the letters “SRS” or “SIR” embossed on the dashboard. The owner’s manual will also verify this.

An inflating passenger air bag can kill a baby in a rear-facing safety seat. An air bag also can be hazardous for children age 12 and under who ride facing forward. This is especially true if the child is not properly buckled up in a safety seat, booster seat, or lap and shoulder belt.

In a crash, the air bag inflates very quickly. It would hit a rear-facing safety seat hard enough to kill a baby. Infants must ride in the back seat, facing the rear.

If there is no room in the back and no other alternative, a child over age one may have to ride in front and facing forward. Make sure the child is correctly buckled up for his or her age and size and that the vehicle seat is moved as far back as possible. Fasten the harness snugly and make sure a child using a lap and shoulder belt does not lean toward the dashboard. Read the vehicle owner’s guide about the air bags in the car.

For more information and safety tips, check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web site.