Proper Child Safety Seat Use

Motor vehicle crashes are the single largest cause of child fatalities in the country. Proper child seat safety can reduce the risk of injury or death by 70%. Conscientious parents make sure their children are in child car seats. However, 80-90% of those seats do not adequately protect the children riding in them due to improper installation. Protection can be compromised in several ways, including:

  • The wrong seat is used for the child’s age, weight and height, or for that vehicle.
  • A seat isn’t installed in the car correctly.
  • A child isn’t properly secured in the seat.

The Newberry Township Police Department currently has Three (3) certified officers who conduct Child Safety Seat inspections. This program enables citizens to bring child safety seats to the Newberry Township Police Department for inspection, to be sure that seats are functioning properly and that it is the proper seat for your child’s weight, height and age. Officer Scott Tyson, Officer Dean Bortner and Chief Steven Lutz are trained to help parents or caregivers learn how to properly install car seats, and identify child safety seats that have been recalled due to manufacturer defects or safety concerns. The Newberry Township Police Department will be conducting programs throughout the year to inspect child safety seats as a service to citizens of Newberry Township and surrounding areas. If you would like to bring your child safety seat in for inspection, please contact the Newberry Township Police Department at 717-938-2608 to make an appointment. Also, watch your local television station for upcoming car seat clinics and events.

The Law

According to the Pennsylvania State Vehicle Code, Subchapter E Child Passenger Protection – Pa. C.S. §4581. Restraint systems:

(a)(1) A child under four years of age shall be securely fastened in a child passenger restraint system as defined in the federal motor vehicle safety standard (49 CFR §571.213)

(a)(1.1) A child four years of age or older but under eight years of age shall be securely fastened in a safety seat belt system and in an appropriately fitting child booster seat as defined in the federal motor vehicle safety standard (49 CFR §571.213)

(a)(2) An occupant eight years of age or older and less than 18 years of age shall be secured in a properly adjusted and fastened safety seat belt system.

Quick Reference Guide


Buckle Everyone.  Children Age 12 and Under in Back!




Young Children

Age and Weight

Birth to at least 1 year and 20-22 lbs.

Over 20 lbs. to about 40 lbs. and over 1 year

Over 40 lbs. up to about 80 lbs. or more

Type of Seat

Infant only or rear-facing convertible


Belt positioning booster seat

Seat Position

Rear-facing only



Always Make Sure:

Children to at least 1 year and at least 20 lbs. in rear-facing seats

Harness straps at or below shoulder level

Harness straps should be at or above shoulders

Most seats require top slot for forward-facing

Belt positioning booster seats must be use with both lap and shoulder belt


Do not place infants in the front seat of cars with air bags

All children age 12 and under ride in the back seat

Make sure the lap belt fits low and tight to avoid abdominal injuries

Always fill out the registration card that comes with the seat in case of a recall.

Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Children’s Safety Seats. For further information, please follow one of the links provided or contact the Newberry Township Police Department at 717-938-2608.

What is the best car seat for my child?

The best car seat is one that meets your child’s age and size requirements and is compatible with your car. Children are safer in the back seat of the vehicle. Generally, the middle seating position is the safest place in the car, but ONLY IF the child’s car seat and the vehicle seat are compatible and you can get a tight fit. Due to the countless variations of car seats, vehicle seats, and safety belt systems, the most important thing you can do to make sure your child’s car seat is installed properly is to thoroughly read BOTH your car seat manufacturer’s instructions and your vehicle owner’s manual. If you are unable to secure the seat properly, bring your vehicle, car seat, and child to the Ankeny Police Department to have it checked by one of our Safety Technicians.

At what age should I turn my infant’s car seat around to face forward?

An infant should be forward facing after 1 year and weigh at least 20 pounds to reduce the risk of cervical spine injury in the event of a crash. Many infant-only seats and convertible seats are tested up to 20 or 22 pounds rear-facing, which is a problem when an infant reaches 20-22 pounds before his/her first birthday. Fortunately, there are seats for weights higher than 22 pounds in the rear-facing position.

Important: Check labels on car seats to confirm the weight limits! Read both the car seat instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual for correct use and installation of your car seat.

What about air bags and kids?
Air bags have been designed to help protect adults in a front-end collision, but not children. So it is very important that all children ages 12 and under or less than 5 feet tall be properly restrained in the back seat. If it is absolutely necessary for a child to ride in the front seat of a car with a passenger-side air bag:

  • Secure the child in a restraint system that is correct for the size of the child — a front-facing car seat, a booster seat, or a lap/shoulder belt.
  • Move the front seat as far back away from the dashboard as possible.
  • Never allow a child to lean forward toward the dashboard.
  • Never put a rear-facing infant in the front passenger seat of a vehicle with an active passenger-side air bag.

Is it okay to use a used Child Safety Seat?
Some used seats may have no safety problems, especially if they are fairly new and have had only one user. However, any used seat may have multiple problems and must be checked carefully before use. Here are some questions to ask regarding a used seat:

Has the seat been in a crash?
If so, it should not be used again and should be destroyed. Possible unseen damage may make it less effective in a second crash.

Does it have a label stating that it meets all Federal safety standards and a sticker with the manufacture date (after 1/1/03) and model number?

Without these, you cannot be sure if it has ever been recalled. Most child passenger safety educators advise against using a child safety seat that is more than 10 years old. There have been many improvements in ease of use during that time. Older seats may have suffered from exposure to heat, sunlight, or severe cold over the years. It is impossible to know the effect of this exposure.

Does the child safety seat have all its parts and its instruction booklet?
The label instructions may not be complete or adequate.

What is its general condition and structural integrity?
Inspect the frame, shell, and harness straps. It is possible to replace pads and straps.

Has it been recalled?
You need the model number and date of manufacture for this. You can find recall information by calling the NHTSA Auto Safety Hotline at 1-800-424-9393.

For more information about the proper use of child safety seats, visit the following web sites:



  • The back seat is the safest place for children of any age to ride.
  • Infants in rear-facing child safety seats should NEVER ride in the front      seat of a vehicle with a passenger air bag.
  • Infants must always ride facing the rear of the car.
  • Make sure everyone is buckled up. Unbuckled occupants can be hurt or killed by an air bag.
  • Unsafe seats should be destroyed so that they cannot be used by unsuspecting people.

A Parent’s Guide to Booster Seats

The purpose of this FAQ is to inform and educate the general public on the proper child safety seat use.  The following information was obtained from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Did you know…

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children of every age from 5 to 14 years – a fact that can be linked, at lease in part, to the reality that most kids are unbuckled or improperly restrained in vehicles.

When children out-grow forward-facing child safety seats, they need to be restrained in belt-positioning booster seats – until they are big enough to fit properly in an adult seat belt.

In a crash

On a small child, the adult lap belt rides up over the stomach and the shoulder belt cuts across the neck.  In a crash, this could cause serious or even fatal injuries.

Children who should use a booster seat

  • A child who has outgrown a convertible child safety seat (weight over 40 lbs or height 40 inches).
  • A child who weighs between about 40 and 80 lbs.
  • Usually a child who is about 4 to 8 years old and is at least 35″ tall.
  • A child who cannot sit with his or her back straight against the vehicle seat back cushion or who cannot sit with knees bent over a vehicle’s seat edge without slouching.
  • For maximum protection, keep a child in a forward-facing child safety seat with full harness as long as the child fits in the seat.  (See the instructions for your child safety seat for best fit.)

Types of Booster Seats

Belt-positioning booster

  • For a child about 40 to 80 lbs.
  • The child sits in the booster seat and uses the vehicle lap and shoulder belts for restraint.  Lap and shoulder belts together offer better protection than lap belts only.
  • Are available in high back and backless models.

High back booster with 5-point harness

With harness

  • Is a forward facing child safety seat for a child 20 to 40 lbs or more.
  • The 5-point harness provides full body protection.
  • Child safety seat is attached to vehicle with vehicle belt system and tether (if seat has one).

High back belt-positioning booster

  • At about 40 lbs the harness is removed.
  • Child safety seat converts to belt-positioning booster
  • Child uses the vehicle lap and shoulder belts for restraint.
  • Use without tether (unless stated in manufacturer’s instructions).

Shield booster

With shield

  • A shield booster seat, with the shield in place can be used for children between 30-40 lbs, however, a forward-facing seat with a full harness offers the safest choice.  NHTSA and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children over one year and between 20 to 40 lbs be restrained in a forward-facing child safety seat, with a full harness.

With shield removed

  • With some booster seats, when the shield is removed, the booster seat becomes a belt-positioning booster using the vehicle lap and shoulder belts for restraint.
  • Never allow a child to sit in the booster seat without the shield while using only the lap belt.

Installing a booster seat

  • Read the booster seat instructions and your vehicle owner’s manual before installing the booster seat.
  • If the vehicle has only lap belts in the back seat, you may want to consider having shoulder belts installed by a dealer or repair facility.  Most vehicle manufacturers offer retrofit shoulder belt kits for this purpose.

Booster Seats Help Seat Belts Fit Properly

Properly fitting lap and shoulder belts reduce the potential for belt-induced injury which can occur when a lap or lap/shoulder belt is a small child’s only restraint.

Buying a booster seat

  • All booster seats are required by law to comply with the same standards and guidelines as child safety seats.
  • When buying a booster seat, make sure that it has a label stating: “This child restraint system conforms to all applicable U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.”
  • Never use a booster seat that has been in a crash.  The seat may have defects that are not visible.
  • For more information on Booster Seats visit .


  • All children ages 12 and under should sit in the back seat, properly restrained.  It’s safer!
  • Never use just a lap belt across a child sitting in a belt-positioning booster.
  • Never put the shoulder belt under a child’s arm or behind the back because it eliminates the protection for the upper part of the body and increases the risk of severe injury in a crash.
  • Never use pillows, books, or towels to boost a child.  They can slide around and increase the likelihood of injury.
  • State child passenger safety laws apply to infant, convertible, and booster child safety seats.