Car Seat Safety
Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of children ages 2 to 14? We already have the cure: a properly installed child safety seat that is used seat every time a child rides in your vehicle.
Children ages 4 to 12 are the most at risk for injury during a crash. When children aged four to 12 use booster seats, they are 59% less likely to be injured than children restrained only by a safety belt.
The University of Vermont Children's Hospital, under the Trauma Department, offers car seat inspections and outreach. To set up educational presentations or other outreach within Chittenden County or to schedule an inspection, call 802-847-1215.
The statewide BeSeatSmart Program also offers safety seats at a reduced price to parents who cannot afford to purchase an appropriate car seat. Income eligibility is determined by receipt of federal or state aid. Visit Be Seat Smart for more info.
Stage 1: Rear-facing seats — Use rear-facing seats for infants or toddlers until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. When infants outgrow their rear-facing–only seat, a convertible, 3-in-1, or all-in-one seat installed rear facing is needed. Most of these seats have limits that will permit a child to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more. Rear-facing supports the head, neck, and spine and allows the car seat to absorb most of the crash forces. Never place a rear-facing seat in front of an active airbag.
Stage 2: Forward-facing seats — Use forward-facing car seats when children outgrow the rear-facing weight limit of the car seat. Always use a top tether with any forward-facing car seat. Harness to a minimum of four years and 40 pounds. Many seats harness to 65 pounds. It is best to wait until age five or six to change to a booster seat.
Stage 3: Booster seats — Use booster seats when a child outgrows the forward-facing car seat and is at least age four AND at least 40 pounds. It is best to wait until age five or six to change to a booster seat. Children must ride in a booster seat until they are 8 years old. Use boosters until you determine the child has passed the five-step test below and is able to use a seat belt.
Step 4: Seat belts — Use seat belts in the back seat after determining the child has passed the five-step test below. Vermont Law says that to sit in the adult belt, children must be both eight years old AND the belt must fit them properly. Take the five-step test for all vehicles.
The Five-Step Test: Is your child ready for a seat belt?
- Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
- Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat with the feet touching the floor?
- Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
- Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
- Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
If you answered "no" to any of these questions, the child should remain in the booster seat, regardless of age. Different boosters have different sizes, so when shopping for a booster seat, have your child sit in different seats until you find one that fits him or her.
Remember, the best seat is one that fits your car, your child, your budget and that you will use correctly every time you drive. For more information on passenger seat safety, visit these helpful links:
For more information or if you have questions, call the Child Passenger Safety Program at 802-847-1215.