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Car Seat Safety

Using a child safety seat correctly is one of the best ways you can protect your baby from serious harm. Following are some helpful hints for getting it right.

Younger than 1 Year and Less than 20 Pounds

· Keep your baby facing the rear of the vehicle until 1 year of age and 20 pounds. This position supports your baby’s head and neck and reduces the chance of serious spinal injuries in a crash.

· The safest position in the vehicle is the backseat. Never put your baby in the front seat with a passenger air bag unless the air bag has been turned off.

· In a rear-facing child safety seat, the harness straps should be in the slots closest to or just below your baby’s shoulders and tightened to fit snugly over your baby. Avoid putting thick clothing, such as a coat, on your baby. Instead, buckle the harness straps and then place a coat or blanket on top.

· Place the harness chest clip level with the infant’s armpits.

· Make sure that the child safety seat reclines far enough that the baby’s head doesn’t fall forward. The safety seat should be positioned following the manufacturer’s instructions, with no more than a 45-degree angle.

· The vehicle belt system must hold the child safety seat firmly in place. Buckle the vehicle seatbelt through the car seat following the instructions or labeling on the seat. Press down on the child safety seat while tightening the belt. There should be no more than one inch of side-to-side movement when you pull on the seat near the seatbelt path.

· Avoid using child safety seats that are used or second-hand. They may not have all of their parts and could have damage that you cannot see. Child safety seats and seatbelts that were in use during a crash should be replaced.

Older than 1 Year and More than 20 Pounds

· Missouri law requires all children under the age of 4 to be secured in an approved child safety seat and all children under 16 to be properly restrained in a motor vehicle.

· Children older than 1 year and at least 20 pounds may ride in a forward-facing child safety seat. Children should ride in a safety seat with full harness until they weigh 40 pounds. Children more than 40 pounds can be moved into a booster seat using the vehicle lap and shoulder belt. It is recommended children ride in booster seats until age 8, or 80 pounds, or 4'9'' in height.

· Be sure your child safety seat is securely fastened in the car and that your child is securely fastened in the safety seat. Harness straps should be at or above the child’s shoulders and, in most cases should be threaded through the top slots of the child safety seat. Harness straps should be snug with the chest clip at armpit level.

· The vehicle belt system must hold the child safety seat firmly in place. Buckle the vehicle seatbelt through the car seat following the instructions or labeling on the seat. Press down on the child safety seat while tightening the belt. There should be no more than one inch of side-to-side movement when you pull on the seat near the seatbelt path. Different belt systems can be tightened differently. Check the vehicle owner’s manual and labels on seatbelts.

To keep your child safe, you need to buckle up, too! A baby can be seriously hurt in a crash from being hit or crushed by others who are not buckled up in the vehicle. Always use your seatbelt, and make sure other passengers do, too.

And remember: NEVER leave a child alone in a car. Not even for a minute!