School is out, and it’s prime time for family vacations.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
If you’re a parent planning to hit the road with young kids, keep car safety in mind. Car seat recommendations can be confusing, but Michael Macknin, MD, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, offers the following facts to smooth your bumpy road.
1. Rear-facing seats are safer for more kids than you think
It is now standard to put children under age 2 in rear-facing car seats. But research also shows that rear-facing seats are safer for older and heavier children too. “The longer a child can be kept facing rearward in a properly fitting car seat, the safer their ride,” Dr. Macknin says. Newer rear-facing car seats have been developed specifically for older and heavier children.
Rules and regulations can be complicated, so ask your pediatrician if you have any concerns or questions about car seats.
2. Hold off on turning that seat around
You may buy a forward-facing seat for kids who are 2 years old, Dr. Macknin says. But if you have a seat designed to face rearward for older children, it will still be safer than a forward-facing seat. Don’t rush to turn it around. Most of all, make sure the seat fits properly.
3. If the seat fits, use it
For maximum protection when children are shorter than 4 feet 9 inches tall and weigh more than 40 pounds, use a car seat designed for taller and heavier children. “These car seats are generally safer than booster seats,” Dr. Macknin says. However, he adds, “Booster seats are definitely safer than a lap belt and shoulder harness alone and are recommended for use after children have outgrown their car seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. Seat belts and shoulder harnesses do not fit properly until children reach that height.”
4. Front air bags? Keep your kids in back
“Air bags are wonderful for everyone over 5 feet tall — and dangerous for everyone under 5 feet,” Dr. Macknin says. Your little ones may be clamoring to ride shotgun, but keep them in back until they’re taller than 5 feet. An airbag triggered by even a minor “fender bender” could hit a shorter passenger directly in the face, resulting in serious injuries.
5. When in doubt, ask your pediatrician
Rules and regulations can be complicated, so ask your pediatrician if you have any concerns or questions about car seats. They’ll help you find the right fit for your children — and for a safe family road trip.