We all want to keep our children safe in the car. From properly installing car seats to avoiding distracted driving, here are some tips to help you keep your child safe on your next trip:

Install Your Child’s Car Seat Properly

Three out of four car seats are improperly installed, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Follow the instructions that came with the car seat and read the owner’s manual for your vehicle.

It can be helpful to watch a video of someone installing a car seat, as long as it is the same type of car seat and vehicle that you have. Make sure an official authority (e.g., Child Passenger Safety technicians) created or endorsed the video.
Tips on installing a rear-facing car seat properly:

  • Do not use both the lower anchors and the seat belt to anchor the car seat, unless the instruction manual directs you to do so.
  • Place the car seat in the center of the back seat (if proper securing latches are available for that position and you can get a tight fit). The front car seats can collapse in an accident, causing serious injury or death to a child directly behind the seats.
  • If the car seat wobbles instead of staying firmly in place, move it to different locations until you find a tight fit.
  • Make sure you properly secure your child in the car seat.

How to keep your child safe in a front-facing car seat:

  • Regardless of whether you secure the car seat with a seatbelt or the lower anchors, always use the top tether as well to properly secure the front-facing car seat.
  • Make sure to position your child correctly in the car seat.
  • Use the harness straps in the appropriate location.

Safety tips for booster seats:

  • Position both parts of the seat belt — the lap belt and the shoulder belt — in the correct locations for your child.
  • Make sure to properly secure the booster seat in the car, whether someone is using it at the moment or not. If the booster seat is unsecured, it can strike someone in a crash.
  • Choose the correct type of booster seat for the size of your child. For example, some booster seats have high backs which are best for taller children.

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Always Use a Car Seat

It does not matter if you have the best car seat on the market if you do not use it. Regardless of how brief the trip, how late you are, or how difficult your child is being, always strap your child in. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Use the Correct Car Seat or Booster Seat for Your Child’s Size

What are the rules on which car seat to use for your child’s size? Here are the rules, in a nutshell:

  • Use a rear-facing car seat from the time your child is born until s/he is two years old or reaches the maximum weight for the rear-facing car seat.
  • Use a forward-facing car seat after your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat and until s/he child reaches the maximum weight or height for the forward-facing car seat.
  • Your child should use a booster seat from the age of five years if s/he has reached either the maximum height or weight for the front-facing car seat. S/he should continue to use the booster seat until s/he is 4 feet, 9 inches tall and between the age of 8 and 12 years.

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Always Buckle Up

After your children outgrow car and booster seats, make sure they always buckle up. No negotiating, no making deals. This is such an important safety matter that there can be no excuses. Using seat belts saves lives. Do not allow your children to unfasten the seat belt at any point when the vehicle is in motion.

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Set a Good Example

Make sure you set the right example for your children. Never drive — not even down the block — without buckling up. If you break this rule, your child will be likely to break it as well.

Focus on Driving

Preventing an accident in the first place is the best safety tip of all. Never text while driving. If you must use your cell phone, only use it in hands-free mode.

Make sure your children have the entertainment they need to avoid distracting you. Do not reach into the back seat while driving to pick something up for them; wait until you have come to a complete stop.

Importance of seatbelts

We cannot overstate the importance of seatbelts for passengers of all ages, including children. Seatbelts are fundamental to car safety, drastically reducing the risk of serious injury or fatality in the event of an accident.

For children who have outgrown their booster seats, using a seatbelt properly is the next step in keeping them safe in a vehicle. Ensure that the lap belt fits snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and that the shoulder belt crosses the chest and shoulder, not the neck or face. Educating your child about the importance of wearing a seatbelt every time they enter a car encourages lifelong safety habits. Remember, children often mimic adult behavior, so it is crucial for parents and guardians to lead by example and always wear their seatbelts.

Stay informed on State Laws

Here at Tronfeld West & Durrett, we emphasize the importance of staying informed about the latest state laws regarding child safety in vehicles.

Each state has specific regulations and guidelines for child car seats, booster seats, and seatbelt usage that are designed to protect your little ones. In Virginia, for example, the law requires children to be in a child restraint device that is appropriate for their weight, age, and height.

Our lawyers recommend that all parents and guardians familiarize themselves with these laws to ensure they are fully compliant. By understanding and adhering to your state’s laws, you not only avoid legal penalties but, more importantly, significantly enhance the safety of your children while on the road.


Tronfeld, West & Durrett — Richmond Accident Attorneys

Many of these tips take only a moment, but they could save your child’s life. However, accidents happen. If your child has been injured while in a car, the personal injury lawyers at Tronfeld, West & Durrett can help. Call today at 804-358-6741 for your free consultation.

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