CHKD Blog

Mom Buckling Baby into Car Seat

Hitting the road this holiday season? Keep kids safe.

Author: Eileen A. Gerling, OTR/L, ATP, CPSTI
Published Date: Monday, December 16, 2019

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is quickly approaching, and many of us have plans to hit the road to visit loved ones near and far. Amid the chaos, the last thing on your mind is your child’s car seat, but it’s critical that the seat be properly installed before hitting the road.

All children are required by law to remain in a rear-facing car seat until at least age 2. Research shows that younger children are more protected in a rear-facing car seat. In this position, the head, neck, and back are kept in line and fully supported by the car seat shell, which reduces head and spinal injuries.

Use a car seat that is appropriate for your child’s height and weight. Most infants will outgrow the infant, carrier-style car seat before 1 year of age. They should then transition to a convertible car seat used in the rear-facing position.

Convertible car seats are able to be turned to face forward for older toddlers, but not before age 2. Many convertible car seats will accommodate older children in a rear-facing position for an extended time, up to 40-50 pounds.

In Virginia, all children must use a properly installed car or booster seat that meets Department of Transportation standards until their 8th birthday. The best safety practice is to continue to use booster seats until children are able to fit in an adult seat belt (at about 4 feet 9 inches tall and 80 pounds). The seat must be properly installed and used whenever a child rides in a car.

During the cold winter months, when kids are bundled snugly in warm coats and multiple layers, make sure to remove bulky jackets and infant snow suits when using the car seat. Thick coats prevent the harness system from being snug against the child’s body, and can allow too much movement or even ejection in a crash. In addition, infants and young toddlers may become overheated as the vehicle warms. Consider keeping some warm blankets in the vehicle that can be placed over the child once they are buckled in, or have them put their coats on backwards after buckling.

For questions about car seat stages and ages, contact CHKD’s child passenger safety program at (757) 668-8655. Or, find additional information here.

Transporting Children with Special Healthcare Needs

Evaluations for children with special transportation needs are available from specially trained physical and occupational therapists. They can offer solutions for both short- and long-term travel needs. Loaner specialty restraints are available for appropriate patients. Click here for more information on our special needs child passenger safety program.



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About Eileen A. Gerling, OTR/L, ATP, CPSTI

Eileen Gerling is an occupational therapist at CHKD who specializes in adaptive seating and child passenger safety. Gerling has worked at CHKD for more than 19 years. She coordinates CHKD’s child passenger safety program and is a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST) instructor and an instructor for national child passenger safety curriculum for Safe Travel for All Children; Transporting Children with Special Healthcare Needs – one of two programs specializing in child passenger safety in the state of Virginia.