Call us to make an appointment for a FREE car seat, booster, and/or seat belt use safety check. Our Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians are available to teach parents, families, and other caregivers about the latest best-practice safety recommendations and updates to the Pennsylvania State Child Passenger Safety laws.
What is the best car seat for my child?
The best child restraint device (car seat or booster) is the one that meets the following criteria:
Which car seat is safest?
All child restraint devices must meet the safety standards outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The manufacturers of child restraint devices are responsible for testing their products for compliance with the safety standards and reporting to the NHTSA. Recently, side-impact testing was made standard for all child restraint devices. Many car seats and boosters exceed the minimum safety standards.
What is the difference between a $50 seat and a $500 seat?
Car seats and boosters increase in price as the materials and features change. As mentioned above, ALL car seats and boosters must meet the same minimum safety standards.
When can I turn my rear-facing child around to forward-facing?
PA law states that all children under 2 years of age MUST be secured in an appropriate rear-facing child restraint device. This could be a rear-facing only infant seat or a convertible seat, depending on what the best option is for you. The best-practice recommendation is that you keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. A baby or young child's body is proportioned much differently than an adult (notably the ratio of head to body size), and in the event of a crash, the rear-facing position best protects the child's head, neck, and spine. Many caregivers are concerned that older and larger children will sustain lower body injuries if they are rear-facing during a crash. The incidence of those type of injuries is very low and the consequences much less severe than a head, neck, or spine injury.There is no law that requires your child to be turned around at a certain point. As long as your child meets the rear-facing height and weight requirements of the car seat, they can stay rear-facing. There are multiple options available for seats that allow children over 30" tall and over 30lbs to ride rear-facing.
When can my child switch to a booster?
PA law states that all children 4 to 8 years of age must be secured in an appropriate seat belt system and belt-positioning booster seat. Children younger than 4 years of age must be secured in an appropriate child restraint device (rear-facing or forward facing car seat). If your child is between 4 and 8 years of age and still meets the height and age requirements for a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness, the best-practice recommendation is that you continue to use that device. One of the most common mistakes made by caregivers is moving a child out of a harness system too soon. Smaller children and children with different physical needs (such as low muscle tone) are more safe in a 5-point harness system. There are multiple options available for devices with higher height and weight limits that also include a 5-point harness system. If your child is over 4 years of age and exceeds the height OR weight limits of their forward-facing car seat, and they are able to support themselves in an upright seated position for the entire ride, and if a belt-positioning booster seat can help the child achieve the correct fit for a seat belt, it may be appropriate to transition the child to a booster. There is no law that states that a child MUST use a belt-positioning booster by a certain age. The purpose of a booster is to position the vehicle seat belt so that it fits the child correctly: The lap belt portion of the seat belt must fit snugly across the child's hips or upper thighs, with the shoulder belt portion flat across the center of their chest and shoulder, not touching their neck. The booster itself does not restrain the child - the seat belt does. If a child cannot be secured properly with the belt-positioning booster, they should continue to use the 5-point harness device.
When is my child ready to use the regular seat belt?
PA law states that all children aged 8 to 18 years must be secured in an appropriate seat belt system. Older children are often anxious to ditch the "baby seat" and use the "big kid" seat belt. As with younger children, there is no law that states that a child MUST transition to seat belt-only use by a certain age. A child must be able to support themselves in an upright seated position without slouching, with their feet flat on the floor of the vehicle and their knees over the edge of the seat. The lap belt portion of the seat belt must fit snugly across the child's hips or upper thighs, with the shoulder belt portion flat across the center of their chest and shoulder, not touching their neck. The child must be able to remain in this position for the entire ride. If correct seat belt fit isn't possible, the child should continue to use a belt-positioning booster (or 5-point harness device if appropriate). There are multiple options available for boosters that are low-profile and can accommodate larger children who are not ready for seat belt-only use.
What is LATCH?
LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. It is a restraint anchoring system that is standard in all vehicles manufactured since 2002 and can be used instead of a seat belt to secure a car seat (as long as certain requirements for weight and positioning are met). The owner's manual will describe the LATCH system of your particular vehicle. Most car seat use guidelines do not allow for simultaneous use of a seat belt and LATCH system because it could place excessive stress on the seat in the event of a crash. Child restraint devices are crash tested using LATCH and the seat belt separately, not together. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines.
Do I need to read the manual?
YES! The child restraint device manual is the most important source of information about the safe use of the car seat or booster. The device manufacturer has the last word on how the device can be used. If you do not have the manual, simply call the manufacturer and request a manual be sent to your home. Many child restraint device manufacturers also post the manuals online in downloadable and printable PDF format. Manuals are available in multiple languages as well (most newly purchased devices come with an English and Spanish language version). Store the child restraint device manual in the glove box for easy access.
Should I buy a used car seat?
It is not recommended to purchase a used car seat unless you can get an accurate history of its usage. Most importantly, you should know if the device was involved in a crash. If it was, do not purchase it. If you cannot afford a new car seat or booster, there are programs that will provide free or low-cost car seats and boosters for qualifying families. Click here to find a program near you.
What if the car seat or booster was in a crash?
Vehicle crashes cause hidden damage to child restraint devices, even if the car seat or booster was unoccupied or if the crash was minor. The same forces that are applied to the body of the vehicle during a crash also travel through the child restraint device. If a car seat or booster is involved in a crash, it is generally recommended that the device be destroyed, even if a child was not using it at the time. Most vehicle insurance companies will pay for a replacement car seat or booster. If the crash was minor, refer to the device manual for the manufacturer's recommendations on whether or not it is safe to use again. NEVER purchase a used car seat or booster if you are unable to confirm its crash history.
Why shouldn't I use this mirror/strap cover/toy with the car seat?
Only accessories that came with the car seat or booster that were specifically made by the manufacturer for use with that exact device should be used. If it didn't come with the seat, don't use it! Child restraint devices are only guaranteed to meet the NHTSA crash test safety standards when they are used in accordance to the guidelines of the manufacturer, and when you add in additional variables like unapproved after-market accessories, there is a possibility that the accessory could cause the seat to fail and harm your child. For example, harness strap covers are popular, but if they were not specifically made for your exact seat, they could cause the harness to be too loose, which would be dangerous for your child. Accessories like mirrors, extra padding, vehicle seat protectors, and toys can become projectiles in the event of a crash, and could prevent the seat from being properly secured in the vehicle.
My car seat or booster was recalled, what do I do now?
If you sent in the registration card that was included with the car seat or booster, the manufacturer will contact you in the event of a recall. If you become aware that your device was recalled, the best course of action is to call the manufacturer to find out what the next steps are. Sometimes, the solution is as simple as ordering a replacement part (typically provided free of charge by the manufacturer), but it is possible that the manufacturer will advise that the device no longer be used. Click here for a list of the most current child restraint device recalls.