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Trauma Prevention and Outreach

Trauma Prevention and Outreach

Buckle up to grow up: one stage at a time

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injuries to children. The correct use of child safety seats can dramatically reduce serious injuries.

Remember, California law requires children to be correctly restrained in a child car seat or booster seat in the back seat of the car until they are 8 years old or 4'9'' tall.

Rear-facing: Infants & Toddles

For infants and toddlers, choose a child safety seat from these types:  

  • Infant child car seat – used rear-facing only.
  • Convertible child safety seat – can be used rear-facing and forward-facing.
  • 3-in-1 child car seat – can be used rear-facing, forward-facing and as a booster.

Safety tips

  • All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing child car seat until they are about 2 years old OR until they reach the highest weight or height limit allowed by the child car seat manufacturer. There are different types of rear-facing child car seats: Infant-only child car seats can ONLY be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 child car seats typically have higher weight and height limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
  • The harness straps in the child safety seat are passed through the openings at or just below the top of the baby’s shoulders.
  • Harness straps must lie flat and fit snug. Pinch the harness at the shoulder; there should be no slack.
  • Harness chest clip secured at armpit or nipple level.
  • Secure the child safety seat in the back seat facing the rear of the vehicle. Never use a rear-facing child safety seat in the front seat where an air bag is present.
  • A rear-facing child safety seat should recline at approximately a 45-degree angle so the baby’s head does not flop forward.

Forward-facing: Toddlers & Preschoolers

For toddlers and preschoolers, choose a child safety seat from these types:

  • Convertible seat – Convertible child safety seat can be used forward- and rear-facing. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing height or weight limits, your child is ready to use the convertible seat forward-facing until he or she reaches the forward-facing weight or height limits recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Combination seat – Combination child safety seats are equipped with a 5-point harness and can later be used as a booster seat. Use the internal harness to the maximum limits indicated in the child safety seat manual. When the child reaches the weight limit of the harness or his or her shoulds are above the top harness slots, remove the harness and use the seat as a booster seat, with a lap AND shoulder belt.
  • 3-in-1 child safey seat – 3-in-1 child car seats can be used rear-facing, forward-facing with the internal harness to the maximum limits indicated in the child safety seat manual. When the child reaches the weight limit of the harness or his or her shoulders are above the top harness slots, remove the harness and use the seat as a booster with a lap AND shoulder belt.

Safety tips

  • Keep your child rear-facing until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing child car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing child car seat with a harness until they reach the highest weight, height or shoulder height limit allowed by the manufacturer.
  • The harness straps in the child safety seat are passed through the openings close to or just above the top of the child’s shoulders. In most convertible seats, the top opening must be used when child is forward-facing. However, on forward-facing only seats or combination seats, any opening can be used that is at or above the child’s shoulders. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Harness straps must lie flat and fit snug. Pinch the harness at the shoulder; there should be no slack.
  • Harness chest clip secured at armpit or nipple level.
  • Secure the child safety seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
  • Child safety seat should be in the upright position. Check the manufacturer’s instructions. Some seats are allowed to recline in the forward-facing position.

Booster seats: School-aged Children

For school-aged children, choose a child safety seat from these types:

  • Combination seat – using lap shoulder belt and internal harness removed.
  • High-back booster seat – must be used when a vehicle does not have a
    head restraint.
  • Backless booster seat – can be used when a vehicle has a head restraint.

Safety tips

  • Children are ready to use a booster seat when they weigh 40 pounds or have outgrown their five-point harness. Some child safety seats have a harness weight limit beyond 40 pounds. It is preferable to continue using the five-point harness until your child reaches that weight limit or has outgrown the seat.
  • Must be used with lap and shoulder belt.
  • Shoulder belt fits snugly across chest and rests on the shoulder.
  • Lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs and below the hips.
  • Secure the booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
  • When child is not in the booster seat, secure the booster with the seat belt to ensure the loose seat does not cause injury.
  • Manufacturer’s weight and height limits vary. Minimum weights vary from 30-40 pounds and maximum weights vary from 80-110 pounds. Height limits vary from a minimum of 37 inches to maximum 59 inches. Be sure to follow instructions.

Always follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions and the vehicle’s instructions to ensure seat is being used properly.

Seat belts: Older Children

Facts

  • Seat belts are designed to fit adults, not children.
  • A lap belt sitting across the stomach can cause serious damage to the child’s internal organs and spine during a crash.
  • If the shoulder belt is not sitting snugly across the mid-chest and resting on the shoulder during a crash, serious injuries to the brain, face and spine can occur.

For older children, be sure your child meets the following guidelines:

  • Child can sit back with his/her back against the vehicle seat back.
  • Child’s knees are bent over the edge of the vehicle seat.
  • Lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs and below the hips, and the shoulder belt lies snugly against the chest and rests on the shoulder.
  • Usually when the child is 4'9" tall.
  • All children under 13 years old should ride in the back seat.

When choosing a child safety seat, remember

  • The best and safest seat is one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and is easy to adjust, so you can do it correctly every single time.
  • Choose a child safety seat that is the right size for your child. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for weight limits.
  • Before you purchase a child safety seat, try locking and releasing the buckle. Try adjusting the harness. Is the adjuster easy to use? Make sure the adjuster is in a position that is easy to reach and operate when the child safety seat is secured in the vehicle.
  • Try the child safety seat in your vehicle. Some safety seats fit in some vehicles better than others. Choose the seat that fits tightly in your vehicle. Read your vehicle owner’s manual and the safety seat instructions.
  • All new child safety seats come with a registration card. On the card is the model number of your seat and the date it was manufactured. Fill this card out and register it with the manufacturer so that you can be notified of any safety recalls.
  • A child safety seat that is more than six years old should be replaced. Most seats have an expiration date on the shell. Normal wear and tear may cause the seat not to work as well as it did when it was new.
  • Avoid using a secondhand child safety seat, especially if it was bought from a yard sale or a thrift shop, because you won’t know the seat’s history.
  •  If you have problems with your child safety seat or want to report a defect, contact the manufacturer as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Auto Safety Hotline at (888) 327-4236.

Installation tips

  • Never secure a rear-facing baby in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag. Children 12 and under should not be seated next to an air bag. The back seat is generally the safest place for a child of any age.
  • Make sure the child safety seat is facing the right direction for your child’s age and size.
  • Check and make sure the seat belt or LATCH system is routed through the correct belt path on the child safety seat.
  • If you are using the LATCH system to attach the seat, follow the vehicle’s instructions to make sure you have attached the straps to the correct anchor points in the vehicle.
  • Be sure that the LATCH straps or seat belt is holding the child safety seat tightly. To help get a tight fit, put your body weight into the child safety seat while tightening the seat belt or LATCH. If you can move the seat more than an inch side to side or front to back, it’s not tight enough.
  • Most vehicles manufactured after 1996 provide seat belts that can secure child restraints tightly. Older vehicles may require the use of a locking clip. Read the child restraint instructions as well as the vehicle instructions before beginning installation.
  • Get your child safety seats checked to make sure it is installed properly. To find a child passenger safety technician in your area, contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The simple facts about LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children)

  • LATCH is a system that makes child safety seat installation easier – without using seat belts. LATCH is required on most child safety seats and vehicles manufactured after Sept. 1, 2002.
  • LATCH is not required for booster seats, car beds and vests.
  • Attachments on a LATCH-equipped child safety seat fasten to anchors in a LATCH-equipped vehicle.
  • Most LATCH-equipped vehicles have anchors in the right and left rear seat positions. If the center seat doesn’t have anchors, you can still install your child safety seat using a seat belt.
  • If your vehicle isn’t LATCH-equipped, use the seat belt and, if available, a top tether.
  • If your child safety seat isn’t LATCH-equipped, it’s still safe if it has been correctly installed using a seat belt, hasn’t been recalled and hasn’t been damaged.
  • For correct installation and use of ALL child safety seats, ALWAYS follow your vehicle owner’s manual and child safety seat manufacturer’s instructions.

UC Davis injury prevention child passenger safety program

Our mission is to decrease preventable childhood deaths and injuries through research, education and community outreach.

Our program offers:

  • Child safety seat inspections by appointment
  • Multilingual car seat classes to the public
  • Child passenger safety education for health care workers
  • National child passenger safety technician training
  • Multilingual child passenger safety materials
  • Community child safety seat inspection events
  • Child safety seat resources for low income families

For more information on our child passenger safety program or other information on injury prevention, please call:

Location:

Trauma Prevention and Outreach Program

Mailing address:

4900 Broadway, Suite 1650
Sacramento, CA 95820

E-mail:

trauma.prevention@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu

Phone:

(916) 734-9798

Fax:

(916) 734-9417