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Car Seat Safety Guide

This post was written with the help of Sarah Tung, an awesome Las Vegas mommy with 2 little boys. She is a self-educated car seat safety advocate who would love nothing more than to have one more kid safer in the car.

Did you hear? The AAP recently released NEW car seat guidelines — just in time for road-trip season! One thing that is important to remember with the latest guidelines is that car seats aren’t just for our youngest kiddos — the guidelines apply to school kids and tweens, too.

10352287_10100148833952599_4433022227196242738_nSTATS AND FACTS:

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional deaths in children.
  • When properly installed in passenger cars, child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 71% for children under age one, and by 54% for toddlers ages 1-4.
  • While 96% of parents and caregivers believe their child safety seats are installed correctly, research shows 70% of children are improperly restrained.
  • Using a booster seat is 60% safer for kids than a seat belt alone, yet 70% of drivers believe it is safe for children younger than 8 to use a seat belt without a child safety seat or booster.
  •  Research has shown rear facing to be 500% safer up to two years of age. Rear-facing is technically safer even for adults… 500% may sound like a lot and numbers can be hard to grasp.  In 100 collisions of rear-facing kids, 8 rear facing children will die or become seriously injured.  92 will walk away fine.  In 100 collisions with forward-facing kids, 40 will die or become seriously injured.  60 will walk away fine.


The most IMPORTANT thing to take away from this is ALWAYS use the MOST RESTRICTIVE seat your child fits in and don’t change seats until your child has surpassed the HEIGHT OR WEIGHT requirements of the seat. 10 year-old weighs 30 lbs? Keep ’em rear-facing!

As parents we tend to get hung up on AGE and those ever so fabulous milestones, but with car seats HEIGHT and WEIGHT are the key to being safe.

Side note: Pay attention to where your child’s head sits, if there is not AT LEAST ONE INCH from the top of their head to the top of the car seat shell they are too tall.


  • REAR-FACING ONLY. Rear-facing is the SAFEST position for a child in the car! Children should remain rear-facing until you just can’t rear-face anymore.
  • 4 years and 40 lbs. AAP minimum for forward facing is 2 years old IF the child SURPASSES the HEIGHT and WEIGHT requirements of rear-facing seats. If your 2 year old is too tall or is pushing the weight limit for their infant seat, you have to buy another seat anyway!
  • CONVERTIBLE SEAT to the rescue! Convertible seats that are made to be used rear-facing have all the adjustments a safety conscious momma could ever want. Many of them are safe for infants on their first car ride. You may be able to skip the infant seat altogether.


  • REAR-FACING to FORWARD-FACING. Remember our 4 years/40 lbs goal and then when your kid can no longer rear-face transition safely by choosing a forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness. The minimum AAP guideline for transitioning away from a 5-point harness is 4 years old, but we can do better.
  • 5-POINT HARNESSES should be used as long as possible, again use the HEIGHT and WEIGHT limits on the seat, many forward-facing 5-point harness seats are rated for children up to 80 lbs.
  • 8 years/80 lbs is a good guideline to follow when looking at keeping kids in a 5-point harness…


  • Yes, TWEENS.  Now, we’re hitting the booster stage. Kids under the age of 13 should NEVER ride in the front seat and MOST kids ages 8-12 still need some sort of booster seat to be safe in a seat belt.
  • HIGH-BACK BELT POSITIONING BOOSTER. this is the best option until your child can ride safely with just the seat-belt itself usually around the time they hit 4 feet 9 inches tall. Many times these seats are rated to 120 lbs!
  • BORING OLD SEAT BELT? Eventually, when they’re like 20 (j/k), they’ll be ready to ride in a normal seat belt, but how can you check?


  • SHOULDER BELT should fit across the center of the chest (CROSS YOUR HEART) and should not touch the neck or throat.
  • LAP BELT should fit LOW across the hip bones/upper thighs and NOT across the belly.
  • BUTT BACK/KNEES BENT. The child should be able to sit comfortably, butt and back against the seat back and knees bent at the edge of the seat.
  • SAFE. Is your child able to remain sitting properly for the entire ride?

MORE QUESTIONS? Check out the Parent’s Guide.

Where can you get your carseat checked in RENO/SPARKS?

RENO FIRE DEPARTMENT has certified firefighters who will check your seat for free! call 775-334-2300 to see if they can do it same day or to make an appointment.

NORTHERN NEVADA FITTING STATION is a partnership between Saint Mary’s, Renown, and REMSA to help keep our kiddos safe! The Northern Nevada Fitting Station is staffed by nationally-certified Child Passenger Safety technicians and volunteers who provide education and assistance with carseat installation. There is a sliding scale fee from $10-$25. It is by appointment ONLY! To schedule an appointment, please call 775-815-0981.

ALSO, there’s an app for that!

Checkout the CAR SEAT CHECK app, by AAP!



AAP policy statement

Guide for Parents



Motor Vehicle Fact Sheet




About Jamie Schnell

Jamie Schnell
Jamie Schnell is an RN and full-time mommy to three boys. Her husband, Adam, keeps track of all the stuff that she can never remember where she had it last, and she loves his geeky-wonderfulness. He is definitely the best daddy. Jamie has a BA in English to accompany her BS in Nursing, and recently completed her Master's in Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner track. Jamie loves reading, writing, crafting anything and everything, green beans, having little parties to celebrate life, coffee, camping, cooking, spa days, Cheetoes, naps, and just being outside.

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