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Car Seat 101

Written By Michelle Greenough, Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician

Mother Fastening Safety Clip On Baby SeatAs the mom of two, I have had my hands on a fair share of car seats.  From carriers to convertibles, forward-facing only to combination, and boosters – you name it, I have bought it, gifted it, looked at it, owned it, and installed it.  I am rule follower to a fault so, you better believe I have done my research on any safety seat we have ever owned and practically memorized the instruction booklets!  I vividly remember installing my first infant carrier base.  It took both my husband and I an hour, at least; it was winter and we were sweating!  I was so proud when we took that seat into a local dealership for a one of their checkup events and they told me we had done it perfectly!  I also remember being told that about 95% of the car seats they see come in are installed improperly!

Now, I am also a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and I see many of the common mistakes that parents make when it comes to car seat selection and installation.  Here are some things to think about when shopping for a car seat.

What is the best Child Restraint?

  • Does it fit your child?
  • Does it fit your vehicle?
  • Will you use it correctly every time?

 Should I use a used Child Restraint?

  • Do you know the complete history?
  • Are all labels and instructions present?
  • Do you know if there are any recalls?
  • Are all parts present and in working order?
  • Is the seat free of cracks, loose rivets, and other damage?
  • Is it no older than 6 years old?

 What are the laws in Iowa for car seats?

 Some key points about the law:

  • Children under 1 year old and less than 20 pounds must be in a rear facing car seat.  BEST PRACTICE, determined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, is that children remain rear-facing until at least age 2 or until they reach the maximum height and weight requirements of their restraint.
  • Children 1-6 years old must be in a safety seat or booster.  BEST PRACTICE says that most children are not developmentally ready for a booster seat until at least age 4 and should remain in car seats with harness straps until they reach the highest limits for that seat.  Many seats will now forward face anywhere from 50-80 pounds.
  • Children ages 6-11 must be in a safety seat, booster, or vehicle safety belt.  BEST PRACTICE says that most children will not be physically large enough for ad adult seat belt until they are between 8 and 12 years of age.  Even then, they should be checked to see if they fit properly without a booster.

Unfortunately, the laws in Iowa are among the 12 worst when it comes to states not keeping up with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations.

For more information about Child Passenger Safety and resources in our area, including check-up events, please check out Blank Children’s Hospital at

http://www.blankchildrens.org/child-passenger-safety-frequently-asked-questions.aspx