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Guide to the Appropriate Car Seat for Your Child.

Fitting your child properly in the correct car seat may save his or her life during an accident.
Recently, my 10-year-old son and I went on a road trip from our home in Corona, California to San Francisco. As with all road trips, we planned out everything we would do on each leg of our trip. We looked forward to the many stops we would make, including trying the popular Andersen’s pea soup restaurant when we reached Santa Nella.

We did everything according to plan. You could say we were having a blast. Four hours into our trip, as we drove along the Interstate 5, suddenly traffic became unusually heavy for the time and day. I began to see ambulances and other rescue personnel appear on my rear-view mirror. As though that was not alarming enough, a rescue helicopter began to circle around us at a very low altitude. I realized then that something very bad had just happened.

As traffic crawled slowly for the next 500 feet or so, we saw a horrific scene. Several cars were involved in an accident on the opposite side of the freeway. The scene was made more dramatic when we saw that a family was trapped inside one of the vehicles.

Sitting in my car next to my son, while we witnessed the aftermath of what had just happened, I began to question whether he was sitting in the right seat and in the right way. The truth is I was not sure I could provide the answer at the time. As soon as we reached San Francisco and checked into our hotel, I began to search for information on the subject. I found a treasure trove of valuable information and guidelines on safercar.gov, a website from the National Safety Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The site features a car seat guide in English and Spanish.

The following guide is included directly from safercar.gov and outlines the type of car seat appropriate for the different age groups of children from birth to 12-years old:


Children from Birth – 12 Months
Rear-Facing Car Seat

Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats:

  • Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing.
  • Convertible and All-in-one car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
All Children Under 8: (New Rules in California effective January 1, 2017)

Depending on your child’s height and age, he or she may be required to use a child passenger restraint system that is federally approved.

In California, all children under 8 years old must:

  • Use a child safety seat or booster.
  • Ride in the back seat of the vehicle UNLESS:
    • The vehicle has no back seats.
    • Back seats are side facing.
    • Back seats face to the rear of the vehicle.
    • A child safety seat cannot be installed safely in the back seat.

NOTE: Effective January 1, 2017, children under 2 years old must use a rear-facing child safety seat UNLESS:

  • They weigh at least 40 lbs.
  • They measure at least 40 inches tall.
Children Aged 9 – 12 Years
Booster Seat

Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

Seat Belt

Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.


In addition to the information I shared above, safercar.gov makes available a PDF titled, “A parent’s guide to playing it safe with kids and cars.” It is made available in both English and Spanish.

I do not know what happened to the family that was being airlifted directly from the site of the accident. My prayer is that they are all safe; especially the children. Lets all make sure that our children remain safe while riding in our vehicles, sitting fitted properly in the right car seat at all times.

*Please check safercar.gov for any updates to the information provided in this article.

car seatslaws and regulationsparent informationsafety

Anthony Cadavid • February 23, 2017


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