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AAA Tips for Car Seat Safety

AAA safety expert Nickia Thurman recommends tips on how to properly install your child's car seat.

a newborn baby in a child care seat, image
Photo caption
A newborn baby sleeps in a well-padded car seat.


If you’ve ever installed a child’s car seat, you know it isn’t easy to make sure your youngster has a safe ride. In fact, more than 80 percent of child seats in the United States are anchored incorrectly. AAA can help with free inspections and coaching from experts like Nickia Thurman. For five years, she has helped families install car seats properly in Fresno, Calif.

Q Are people surprised to learn that their seat isn’t safely installed?
Yes, and I understand why. Before I trained as a car seat technician, my youngest was in one. When the car made turns, he would throw his weight to tip it. I thought it was funny until I learned that the seat tipping meant it wasn’t secure. That was devastating to hear. All that time he could have been severely injured had we been in a crash.

Q What is the main mistake?
A The one I made—not having the child’s seat tightly secured to the vehicle. The car seat should not move more than one inch side to side and front to back along the path of the seat belt.

Q Is it OK to use a hand-me-down seat?
A We advise against it. You probably won’t know its history. Also, child safety seats have expiration dates—five to eight years. In hotter places like Fresno and Las Vegas it’s usually closer to five; the heat wears down the webbing of the straps and no one can guarantee that it won’t break.

Q How long do children need to use booster seats?
AAA recommends until they’re at least 8 years old or four feet nine inches tall. In California it was 6 years or 60 pounds until last October, when Governor Brown signed SB 929 and we joined 38 other states, including Utah, by raising the age to 8. Parents won’t need to buy new booster seats; they can just keep their children in the seats they have. Even new ones don’t cost too much—$15 to $45—for the huge benefits they provide in saving children’s lives and protecting them from injury.

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Photography by Tatyana Vyc/Shutterstock


This article was first published in January 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.