Choose right car seat for children;
Child Passenger Safety Week is Sept. 18-24

Selecting a new motor vehicle may hold less challenge than choosing the right car seat for a child. Somewhere between varying state laws and additional federal recommendations exists that perfect choice for protecting the littlest passengers at all stages of their young lives.

Child Passenger Safety Week is Sept. 18–24 and provides parents nationwide with opportunities to learn more about which kind of safety seat is best for a child, how to properly install seats and where child safety seat installations can be checked.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for young children, according to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but properly fitted child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and more than half for toddlers riding in passenger cars.

Research results released this week by Safe Kids USA looked at the individual elements of successful child safety seat installations.

A key finding of the study, involving 79,000 child safety seat inspections over the course of one year, was that less than one-third of forward-facing child seats arriving for inspection used a top-tether.

A top tether is a strap that is offers added protection by helping to reduce forward movement of a child’s head in a crash. The study found that even among people that used a tether on a forward-facing seat, it was used correctly only 59 percent of the time.

The study also found a continuing need to advise parents on how and when to transition children to different child safety seats.

Idaho law requires that all children 6 years of age or younger be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety restraint. An appropriate restraint is a child safety seat designed for children up to 40 pounds and a belt-positioning booster seat for children 6 years or younger.

Federal recommendations go much further, encouraging parents to select a car seat based on a child’s age and size, then choose a seat that fits the transport vehicle and always use it.

Review and follow specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions and read the owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system.

NHTSA recommends that children be kept in a properly fitted car seat for as long as possible and positioned in the back seat at least through age 12.

“Laws regarding child safety seats are different in each state,” explains Lisa Losness, child passenger safety coordinator for ITD’s Office of Highway Safety. “But if parents follow current federal recommendations, they will always be in compliance regardless of where they travel.”

Oregon and Washington’s child and booster seat laws include both age and size requirements. Fines for noncompliance in both states exceed $100. Idaho’s fine for noncompliance is $79.

NHTSA recommends that children younger than one year should always ride in a rear-facing car seat and that parents should keep children in a rear-facing position as long as possible -- until age 3 or when the top height and or weight limit of the car seat is achieved.

By about age 4, or when rear-facing seat height or weight limits are reached, a child may travel in a forward-facing seat with a harness. Once a child outgrows that seat at about age 7, it’s time for a booster seat that is still located in the vehicle’s back seat.

Between 8 and 12 years of age a child should be kept 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 snug across the shoulder and chest, not crossing the neck or face.

“It’s still a good idea to continue locating children in the back seat because it is the safest place for them to ride,” Losness advised.

For more information about child safety seats visit To learn more about a child safety seat inspection opportunity visit

Published 9-16-2011