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Child Safety Seat Information

Upcoming Free Car Seat Checks

Monday, March 31, 2014
1:30 - 4 p.m.
CHKD Tidewater Children’s Associates/Therapy Services
171 Kempsville Road, Building B
Norfolk, VA 23502
Thursday, April 10, 2014
1:30 - 4 p.m.
CHKD Health Center at Oakbrooke
500 Discovery Drive
Chesapeake, VA 23322

Safety Notice

Harness Buckle Recall - 2014 Announcement

As part of our continuous product testing and improvement process, Graco identified that food and dried liquids that can make some harness buckles progressively more difficult to open over time or become stuck in the latched position. Therefore, Graco has decided to conduct a voluntary recall on the harness buckles used on all toddler convertible car seats and harnessed booster seats manufactured from 2009 to July 2013. Graco would like to stress this does not in any way affect the performance of the car seat or the effectiveness of the buckle to restrain the child. And a car seat is always the safest way to transport your child.

Injuries Reported: 0

Number of Units Affected: 3.7 million

Dates Produced: 2009 through July 2013

MSRP: $99.00-$399.99

Models Affected: Toddler Convertible Car Seats: Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride 70, My Ride 65 with Safety Surround, Size4Me 70, My Size 70, Head Wise 70, Smart Seat. Harnessed Booster Seats: Nautilus 3-in-1, Nautilus Elite and Argos.


Graco offers a new and improved replacement harness buckle to affected consumers at no cost. If you are experiencing difficulty with your harness buckle and cleaning has not improved its performance, please contact our Graco customer service team at 800-345-4109 (Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.) or email

Cleaning Tips for Harness Buckles:

  • To clean your buckle, turn the restraint over and push the retainer through the harness strap slot. Place the buckle in a cup of warm water and gently agitate the buckle, pressing the red button several times while it is in the water.
  • Do not submerge the harness webbing and do not use soaps or lubricants, only rinse the harness buckle with warm water.
  • Shake out the excess water and allow the harness buckle to air dry.
  • Reattach the harness buckle into the same slot and re-check harness for correct installation according to the car seat manual before use.

Keep toddlers rear-facing until age 2!

The American Academy of Pediatrics has just released an updated recommendation that all children should ride rear-facing in a car seat until the age of two. While previous recommendations stated that children should ride facing the rear of the vehicle until at least one year and twenty pounds, and encouraged parents to keep them rear facing until the upper weight limit of the seat was reached, this new recommendation makes a stronger statement for older toddlers remaining rear-facing. This change is a result of further crash testing which has demonstrated that toddlers are more than five times safer riding rear-facing than forward-facing.

Toddlers should be moved into a rear-facing convertible after they have outgrown their infant seat, and should use it until they have reached the maximum height and weight limits, or until at least until the age of two.

Following are some general tips to help you ensure your child is always safe on the road. However, because all car seats and vehicles are different, make sure to refer to your car owner’s manual and car seat manufacturer’s instructions for the most accurate and specific instructions for your specific situation.

View car seat inspection sites throughout Hampton Roads.

Video tips on installing your car seat from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Click here to view a complete list of recalled child restraints

Infants and Toddlers under the age of two:

  • Smaller infants up to 20-22 pounds must always ride rear facing in an infant car seat or a convertible car seat placed rear facing. Very small infants will fit better in infant-only car seats with low harness strap slots.
  • Larger infants who have outgrown the infant-only seat and toddlers younger than two years old should ride rear-facing in a convertible car seat. Most convertibles now have a rear-facing weight limit of 35-40lbs, some up to 45lbs. Children should remain rear-facing until they reach the upper rear-facing weight or height limits for the seat. Children with special needs may need to ride rear facing longer.
  • Studies have shown that rear-facing car seats provide better crash protection in front and side impact crashes. It is recommended to keep your children rear facing until the upper weight limit of the particular seat is reached.

Comparison of forward-facing vs rear facing child seat

Positioning and Installation of Rear-Facing Seats:

  • Infants should NEVER be placed in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger side airbag.
  • Harness straps should be secured at or slightly below the shoulders in one of the lower slots.
  • Rear facing infant and convertible seats should be reclined at a 30-45 degree angle. Car seats that are too reclined provide less protection to the head and neck. Car seats that are too upright may cause the head to flop forward and result in breathing problems in young infants. A foam pool “noodle” or tightly rolled towel may be placed in the vehicle seat crack under the base of the car seat to achieve more recline if needed. Many infant car seats have an adjustable angle “foot” – see instructions.
  • Harness straps should fit snugly against your child’s body. You should not be able to pinch any extra slack in the straps.
  • The chest clip should be positioned mid-chest, level with the armpits. This clip help keeps the straps positioned well on the shoulders and keeps the child in the car seat in the event of a crash.
  • As the infant or toddler grows, keep in mind that he or she could outgrow the infant car seat in length (height) before weight. The infant’s head should be more than one inch below the top of the car seat shell.
  • Most infant seats must be used with the carrier handle in the down position when installed in the car.

Older Toddlers (over two years):

  • Children over two years must ride forward facing in a car seat with a full five point harness.
  • The child may use a convertible which previously was used in the rear-facing position (converts rear-facing to forward-facing).
  • The child may also use a forward-facing only seat (often called toddler or combination seats). Combination seats often can be used as a belt-positioning booster seat after the harness weight limit is reached. In this case, the harness straps are completely removed and the child is secured using the vehicle lap/shoulder belt. These seats cannot be used rear-facing.

Positioning and Installation of Forward Facing Seats

  • Many forward facing car seats require an upright position, however some models provide a semi-recline option – see instructions.
  • Harness straps should be at or slightly above the shoulders.
  • Harness straps should fit snugly against your child’s body. You should not be able to pinch any extra slack in the straps at the shoulder.
  • The chest clip should be positioned mid-chest level with the armpits. This clip help keeps the straps positioned well on the shoulders and keeps the child in the car seat in the event of a crash.
  • The top tether should always be attached. This reduces the forward movement of the head during a crash, decreasing the risk for severe spinal and neck injuries. A tether strap is included on the back of all forward facing child restraints. To find your vehicle’s tether anchor, refer to your vehicle owner’s manual. They are often labeled and located low on the back of the seat, or in the window shelf in a sedan.

Effectiveness of top tether use in forward facing seats

Children who weigh 40 pounds or more:

  • Most car seat manufacturers now offer several models that provide a secure harness system for children 50-85 pounds. This allow children to remain in a five point harness car seat for a longer period of time, with the benefit of better crash protection. This is also a good option for active children who may not be ready to sit independently in a standard booster seat using a vehicle lap and shoulder belt.
  • Children over 40 pounds should otherwise use a belt positioning booster seat until they weigh 80 pounds and are 4 feet, 9 inches tall, and can properly use the lap-shoulder belt in a vehicle.
  • Booster seats are used as a transition to vehicle safety belts for children who have outgrown their car seats, but who are not big enough to use the vehicle seat belts alone. They assist in the correct fit of the vehicle lap and shoulder belt.

Booster Seats:

Types of Booster Seats

No-back Booster

High back Booster with Wings

  • Booster seats are just as important as car seats with full harnesses. Children under 4’9” tall and under 80lbs are not usually big enough to ride in an adult seat belt. They are easy to use and can save your child’s life by simply raising them up and helping the lap and shoulder belts fit properly.
  • Booster seats are only to be used with lap AND shoulder belts. If you have a vehicle seat which only has a lap belt, do not place a child in a booster seat there.
  • The shoulder belt should cross the middle of the shoulder, and the lap belt should be low and touching the tops of the thighs. The belts should NEVER cut across the neck or across the soft belly.
  • Make sure the vehicle seat belt glides through the shoulder belt guides easily.
  • In an older model car without back seat vehicle headrests, a high back booster should be used instead of the no-back version. Headrests and high back boosters provide protection for the head and neck during a crash. There are some models of tall boosters which require a vehicle headrest behind them for stability, please read your instruction manual for specific information.
  • High back boosters are also better if your child sleeps in the car. They will support the head and keep them in position while they sleep.
  • High back boosters with side wings may provide better head protection in side impact crashes.

Crash test with proper booster seat use

Your child is big enough to use the vehicle’s seat belts when:

  1. The lap portion of the belt fits low across the hips, resting on the thighs.
  2. The shoulder portion fits comfortably across the chest and shoulder, between the neck and the arm, but not on the neck.
  3. The child is able to sit all the way back in the seat.
  4. The child’s knees bend at the end of the seat cushion.
  5. The child is able to stay like this for the whole trip.
  6. They are at least 8 years old in the state of VA. However, many 8-12 year olds are not tall enough to safely use the seat belt alone.

Crash test with same dummy, no booster used

Children with Special Needs:

Evaluations for children with special transportation needs are available by trained Physical and Occupational Therapists for children who need short or long term travel solutions. Loaner specialty restraints are available for appropriate patients.

Click here for more information on the Special Needs Child Passenger Safety Program.

Installation Tips:

  • Not all car seats fit in all vehicles
  • Be sure to read the car seat manufacturer’s instructions and keep them with the car seat.
  • Be sure to read the section on car seat installation in the owner’s manual of your car.
  • When the car seat is installed, make sure it does not move side to side or away from the seat back more than one inch. Test by holding both sides of the seat where the belt goes through the shell and trying to move it. To achieve a tight fit, kneel in the car seat or base and pull the belt tight. This can only be accomplished by using a locked vehicle seat belt. Please seek assistance if you are unsure how to lock your seat belts.
  • Get your instalation checked at a local seat checkpoint. (see link above)
  • What is the LATCH system?
    1. LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.
    2. It is a way to install car seats without using a seat belt, but instead using built-in straps on the car seat that attach to anchors in the vehicle..
    3. You can find these anchors in all cars model year 2003 and later, and some 2001-02 models.
    4. Top tether anchors for forward facing seats are included in most cars since model year 2000.
    5. Car seats that have LATCH equipment can still be installed the “old” way using vehicle seat belts in older cars.
    6. Most middle vehicle seats are not equipped with LATCH, however this position can still be used by installing the seat using the seat belts instead. Refer to the vehicle’s owner’s manual to find out which seating positions have LATCH.
    7. Please refer to the vehicle manual and car seat instructions for details about how to use this system.


  • Never take a child out of a safety seat while the car is in motion.
  • The back seat is the safest place for children under the age of 13. Never place an infant or child in under 13 in the front seat of a vehicle with airbags. If this seat is needed to transport children, your auto dealer can assist you with turning off your airbag.
  • Always use a car seat that is approved by the Department of Transportation that is functioning correctly.
  • Do not alter your car seat in any way. This includes adding any extra padding or positioning products that did not come with the seat, which adds bulk under the child or between the child and the harness straps.
  • Remove bulky clothing and coats – these will keep the harness from being snug enough. Warm up the car and/or use blankets over the child after they have been buckled in.
  • Harness straps should always be flat and not twisted. DO NOT put harness straps in the washing machine, as this can weaken them.
  • Keep a supply of soft toys in the car for play. Do not attach hard plastic toys to the car seats, as they can injure your child in the event of a crash.
  • Do not use a car seat that has been involved in a crash. It may be weakened in areas you cannot see.
  • Do not use a second-hand car seat if you do not know the previous owners or its history.
  • Do not use a car seat that has broken or missing parts.
  • During hot weather, always check the car seat parts for hot spots that may burn your child, such as metal harness adjusters or buckles.
  • Always complete and return the car seat registration card so you will be notified of any recalls.
  • In the case of a crash, do not remove the child from the car seat until medical personnel check for injuries.

Disposing of a Car Seat

Most car safety seats come with expiration dates determined by the manufacturer. If you can’t find the expiration date, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association recommends that a car seat be disposed of six years from its manufacture date. Also, if a car seat had to be replaced because it was involved in a crash, the old one must be disposed of.

You can dispose of a car seat by taking it to an AAA Service Center. To find the nearest one, click here. Some DMV offices will also accept car seats.

In February, you can get a small reward for your used car seat when you turn it in at any AAA location during the Old, Used, Borrowed & Abused Child Safety Seat Roundup, sponsored by Drive Safe Hampton Roads.

If you can’t get to one of those places, you can dispose of an unsafe car seat by destroying it. That way there’s no chance of it being found and reused. To accomplish this:

  • Remove and cut all straps and padding.
  • Destroy the plastic shell by crushing or cutting it.
  • If you can’t destroy the plastic shell, use a permanent marker to note that it is unfit for use and mark out the model number so parts cannot be ordered. Then put it in the trash inside a dark garbage bag.

For further information, please call (757) 668-8655 or seek assistance at one of the fitting stations.

There are assistance programs for low income Virginia residents who cannot afford to purchase a child safety seat. Please contact your local health department or call CHKD at (757) 668-8655 for more information.

Always buckle up! No exceptions!