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Four Steps to Safer Car Seat and Seat Belt Use for Kids

Protect your kids in the car with proper car seat and seat belt use. From quick grocery store jaunts to family road trip vacations, here’s the latest on new laws and guidelines to keep kids safe in your vehicles.

1. Use the right car seat the right way: It’s the law in every state because it’s the best way to reduce the risk of injuries. Several state agencies offer free clinics to check and properly install car seats of all types.

Find a car seat inspection clinic near you.

General car seat and seat belt use guidelines by stage:

  • Newborn to at least age 2
    • Seat: Rear-facing or a convertible seat
    • This is a new guideline from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Place the seat in the reclined position. Keep the belt snug, at or below your baby’s shoulders. Never put this seat in front of an airbag.
  • Ages 2 – 4
    • Seat: Forward-facing with harness
    • Place this seat facing forward and upright. Move the straps to the slots. Keep the belt snug at or above your child’s shoulders.
  • Ages 4 – 8 and shorter than 4’ 9”
    • Seat: Fastened into child safety seat or booster seat
    • Keep kids in a booster seat based on their height, not age
    • When your child outgrows a combination seat, go to a booster seat, used wit the lap and shoulder seat belt. If your vehicle only has lap belts, use a tethered harness or install shoulder seat belts.
  • Age 8+ or 4’ 9” or taller (whichever comes first)
    • Seat belt only
    • Kids are ready for seat belts only when they can sit with their back against the seat, knees bent (not slouching) and feet on the floor.
  • Medically-fragile kids
    • Some children may need harness adjusters, padding or other adaptation to properly fit in their car seat, booster or seat belt. Ask your PHS caregiver about options to fit your passengers.

2. Buckle up every time: Minnesota’s seat belt law is a primary offense. That means the driver and every single passenger must be in a seat belt or the proper car seat. The tickets are $25 – $100+, but your safety is more important.

3. Until age 13, kids sit in the back seat: They won’t like it, but it’s safer.

4. Buckle up yourself: Keep yourself safe for your kids, and set the right example for all your passengers.

See Minnesota’s full seat belt and car seat information.

Listen to the guidelines for choosing a safety seat.

Originally published: April 15, 2011