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Traveling with kids can be fun, stressful and, at times, very difficult. But, it is
also necessary to get from point A to point B safely. Whether you’re taking children
down the street or across the country, there are several things to remember to make
traveling with children safer and easier.
The CDC chart below provides basic guidelines for car seats based on your child's
age and height.
Click graphic to view larger size.
Older recommendations stated that a child could move from a rear-facing to a forward-facing
car seat at age 1 and 20 pounds. Current recommendations say at least age 2, but children
are safer rear-facing for as long as their seat is safe to do so (until the child
reaches the upper weight and height limit for their seat). Many newer seats go up
to 45 pounds while rear facing.
If you would like someone to check your child’s car seat installation, car seat technicians
are trained to check and install car seats. Visit http://cert.safekids.org/ for a searchable database. It will give you contact information for car seat technicians
in your area.
Infants under age 2 should be in a rear-facing seat. These seats may be carrier/bucket
seats that have a base that stays installed in the car, or they may be convertible
car seats that stay installed in the car and may be turned to face forward when the
child meets age, height and weight requirements.
This is what the straps should look like: the strap is tight (passes “pinch test”)
and the chest clip is at armpit level. (Photo Credit: NHTSA.gov)
Updated recommendations for forward-facing car seats say that children should stay
rear-facing until at least age 2, but for as long as possible based on the weight
and height limits of the seat being used. Following these recommendations with an
appropriate seat increases the likelihood that a child will make it safely through
most car accidents with only minor injuries.
Many parents worry about their older child rear-facing with their legs being uncomfortable.
Most children will cross their legs or find a comfortable position while rear-facing.
Staying rear-facing longer protects against spinal injuries.
Moving to a booster seat is appropriate when a child is 5 or older and will sit properly
in a seatbelt (i.e., they won’t put it behind their back or under their arms, and
they will sit up in the car).
Option 1 - Regular Booster
Option 2 - High-backed Booster
When a child is 8 years or older (depending on height), they may be ready to sit in
the seat alone. Before setting out, be sure to check for seatbelt position:
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has resources to help you find the right car seat that fits in your vehicle
and keeps your child safe based on their height and weight.
Be aware of the sun. Especially if you are traveling a long distance, check sun exposure
throughout the day. Babies and young children are especially sensitive to sun exposure,
so it may be a good idea to put sunscreen on, even if you will be in the car, if you
do not have tinted windows.
For very young babies, long sleeves, long pants, socks, and a hat and/or a sun shade
that attaches to the window are all good ways to protect them from sunburn in the
car. Older children will likely do their best to avoid the sun, but if they nap in
the sun, it is best to cover the window or cover the child with sunscreen, clothes,
or ablanket, if windows are not tinted.
Another car safety issue when traveling with children is knowing how to prevent injury
or death from a hot car. Especially in cases where we are out of our routine, such
as taking a child to school that we are normally not responsible for or going somewhere
with our child who is usually at school or daycare.
Forgetting about a child in the car is an all too common occurrence. The majority
of these cases are not of bad parents who intended their child harm, they are of good
parents who were out of their routine.
Children, especially very young children, are in danger of heat stroke or death when
left in a hot car for even a brief period of time (as little as 10 to 15 minutes in
direct sunlight). The danger of this happening increases with rear-facing car seats because the driver
cannot see the child when looking in the rearview mirror. Another danger for young
babies is that they may fall asleep or be very quiet so the driver does not remember
they are in the car.The main stories we hear in the news of hot car deaths and injuries involve parents
who forgot their child or left them in their car seat unattended; however, many children
who die or are injured in hot cars climb in the car or trunk themselves while the
car is parked. They may be playing in the car or using it as a hiding place. Most
older children will get out on their own, but a younger child may become trapped because
they are unable to open the door, they accidentally lock themselves in, or they close
the trunk and cannot open it from the inside. It is a good habit to lock cars while
they are parked and to teach children not to play in or around cars to avoid these
dangers and other potential hazards.
To protect against these hazards, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
recommends Look Before You Lock. Check the car before locking it and walking away. Use the tips below to prevent accidental death or injury from a hot car, especially if you have a rear-facing car seat.
Tips for backseat safety during the summer heat:
For more info on heatstroke and how to keep your child safe, visit the NHTSA website.
If you are not used to traveling with children, there are some legal issues that you
need to be aware of before taking them along.