Car Seat Safety: Tips for Making Sure Your Grandchild is Safe

By Emily Koeppel, B.A, Graduate Research Assistant
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Colorado State University

Car Seat Safety: Tips for Making Sure Your Grandchild is Safe

Child car seat technology is always changing and it can be hard to keep up with knowing what type of car seat is right for your grandchild. Additionally, it can be difficult to know how to install your grandchild's car seat in order for he or she to be as safe as possible. In this article, you will find a few helpful tips for making certain your grandchild is safe.

First and foremost, child car seats have an expiration date and it is important to pay attention to them. Car seats generally last around 6 years, and after that the plastic can be worn down and can lose its effectiveness. Further, car seats need to be replaced if they have been involved in a car accident because the plastic could be faulty as a result of impact. Although it is cheaper, try to avoid buying used car seats unless you know that it has not been involved in a car accident. New child safety seats come with a registration card and it is recommended that you register your car seat so you can be notified and reimbursed should it be recalled.

Child car seats are required by law in all states, but there are several recommendations that can help you decide what kind of car seat is best for your grandchild's age.

If your grandchild is 2 years or younger, it is recommended that they ride rear-facing in an infant or rear-facing convertible safety seat. Sometimes a child can grow out of the height and weight limits for a safety seat before he or she turns two years old, so be sure to read the guidelines for the seat. When installing the car seat, make certain it is at the correct angle according to the manual. Avoid installing infant rear-facing seats in an upright angle. Make sure the harness chest clip is level with your grandchild's armpits when buckling in him or her.

Once your grandchild turns two or grows out of the rear-facing safety seat, you should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness. Your grandchild will most likely be in a forward facing seat until they reach kindergarten. Once again, be sure to read the safety seat manual to make certain your grandchild's height and weight is appropriate for the seat.

If your grandchild has grown out of the front-facing safety seat, it is recommended that your grandchild use a belt-positioning booster seat until the seat belt fits them properly. With booster seats, it is important that your grandchild use both the lap and the shoulder belt. The lap belt should sit low over the upper thighs and not in the middle of the abdomen.

When your grandchild reaches the height of 4 feet 9 inches, the seat belt will most likely fit without a booster seat. Generally, this happens between the ages of 8 to 12 years old. Because of airbag risks, it is recommended that your grandchild sit in the backseat until they reach the age of 13.

If you want help figuring out if your car seat is safe and how to install in correctly, call and make an appointment with your local Emergency Medical Services such as the local fire or police department. If you live in a surrounding Fort Collins community, go to to find out where to get your car seat check. This website also has information on car seat safety classes around the community.

For more information on child car seat recommendations, tips, and information on how to install the seats, visit and click on Health and Safety.

Source: Installing Child Safety Seats, The USAA Educational Foundation.