Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help

Skip First Level Navigation | Skip All Navigation

Child Passenger Safety (CPS)

 

Car Seat Selection and Styles

The system cannot, however, take into consideration which seat fits your child and your vehicle best. Not all car seat fits all vehicles or children. The best seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and is easy for you to use so you will use it consistently and correctly every time.

The first item to consider when choosing a car seat for your child is the type of car seat that would fit your child based on the child's age, weight and height. If you child has any medical or behavioral issues, those may need to be considered as well.

Premature babies and children with special health care needs may need a specialized child seat that is only available through a medical supply company. Please contact our office for a Certified CPS Technician specialized in transporting children with special health care needs.

 

Types of Car Seats

  • Rear-facing car seats
  • Forward-facing car seats
  • Belt-positioning booster seats
  • Seat belts

 

Rear-Facing Car Seats

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): "Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness" Many car seats can accommodate a child rear-facing to 30, 35, 40 and even 45 pounds. Rear-facing is at least 5 times safer than forward-facing and has less risk of brain and spinal injury risk in the event of a crash (Injury Prevention 2007;13:398-405 doi:10.1136/ip.2006.015115, "Car Safety Seats for Children: Rear Facing for Best Protection"). Consult with the car seat instruction manual for the requirement of the specific car seat.

Types of rear-facing car seats

  • Rear facing only infant seats

A rear-facing only infant seat can only be installed rear-facing and cannot be turned forward-facing. They often have a carrying handle and a detachable base. Rear-facing only infant seats often have maximum weight limits of 22 pounds while some can accommodate up to 30 and 35 pounds.

  • Convertible seats

A convertible seat can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing. It does not have a carrying handle or a detachable base. It is intended to remain installed in the vehicle while the child it placed in and out of the seat. All current convertible seats have a maximum rear-facing weight limit of 30 pounds while some can accommodate up to 35, 40 and 45 pounds.

Forward-facing Car Seats

Once a child is able to ride forward-facing in the vehicle (between the ages of 2 - 3 or when they have reached the rear-facing weight and/or height limits of their car seat), there are a couple of different types of car seats that will accommodate them forward-facing. Most forward-facing car seats have a 5-point harness while a few still may have a tray shield (an impact bar that is connected to the harness and lies in front of the child's chest). A 5-point harness provides superior protection across a wide area of the child's body and helps to reduce the risk of injury in a crash. Some forward-facing car seats have a maximum weight limit of 40 pounds but many car seats are being manufactured with harness weight limits of 50, 65, 70, 85 and even 90 pounds. Children should remain in a forward-facing 5-point harness until they are at least 4 years old and weigh 40 pounds. For maximum protection, children should remain in a forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness until they reach the maximum weight and/or height limits of the car seats.

Types of Forward-facing Car Seats

Convertible car seat

A dual-purpose car seat that faces rear-facing to a maximum weight and/or height limit and then can be turned forward-facing to a maximum weight and/or height limit.

Some convertible car seats can also be turned into a booster seat. These seats are often referred to as 3-in-1 car seats.

Combination car seat

A car seat that is used forward-facing and then, once the child reaches the upper weight/height limits of the harness, can be used as a booster seat.

Types of Forward-facing Car Seats

http://www.maine.gov/dps/bhs/restraints/child-seats/images/clip_image004.jpg

Convertible car seat

A dual-purpose car seat that faces rear-facing to a maximum weight and/or height limit and then can be turned forward-facing to a maximum weight and/or height limit.

Some convertible car seats can also be turned into a booster seat. These seats are often referred to as 3-in-1 car seats.

Combination car seat

A car seat that is used forward-facing and then, once the child reaches the upper weight/height limits of the harness, can be used as a booster seat.

 

 

 

 

 

Booster Seats

Once a child has outgrown the weight and/or height limits of their forward-facing seat (usually between ages 4 - 8), they can transition to a booster seat. Booster seats are seats that a child sits on to use with the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt. The booster seat elevates the child so that the lap and shoulder seat belt fit the child properly.

Most children cannot fit properly in a seat belt until they are 4' 9" tall. A booster seat provides the transition from when a child outgrows their forward-facing car seat to when the seat belt will fit them properly. A child should not ride in a booster seat until they are at least 4 years old and weigh 40 pounds. As mentioned above, the longer a child can remain in a forward-facing 5-point harness, the safer they will be.

Types of Booster Seats

Booster seats are available in two different styles:

High Back Booster

A high back booster seat has a portion of the car seat that goes behind the child and provides head support.

Some high back boosters also provide side-impact protection.

Backless Booster

A backless booster is a bottom platform only and provides no head support or side-impact protection. Use of a backless booster seat requires that the vehicle have a high back vehicle seat or a head rest on the vehicle seat.

All booster seats, regardless of the type, must be used with the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belts. Booster seats CANNOT be used with a lap-only seat belt, as it does not provide any upper body restraint. If is very important that the child always keep the shoulder belt across their chest and NEVER under their arm or behind their back, as serious life-threatening injuries may result.

 

Seat Belts

Once a child has outgrown the weight or height limits of their booster seat and can pass the 5 Step Test, they can ride in a seat belt (usually between ages 8 - 12).

5 Step Test for Proper Seat Belt Fit

1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

Lap and shoulder seat belts provide better protection than lap-only seat belts. Lap-only seat belts provide no upper body protection whereas a lap and shoulder seat belt helps protect the brain, head and spinal cord by limiting the amount of movement forward that the upper body will make in a crash

Please be aware of these important things to consider:

 

  • Seat belts must be worn properly so that the lap portion of the seat belt lies low on the hips, touching the tops of the thighs.
  • The shoulder portion of the seat belt lies across the chest, centered on the collar bone between the neck and the shoulder.
  • The seat belt should be snug with no twists.
  • Always adjust the vehicle head rest so that it is positioned behind the center of the child's head. Head rests provide protection against injuries associated with rear impact collisions, ofter referred to as "whiplash". Avoid leaning against the door or window and remain seated in an upright position for maximum protection.

An improperly worn seat belt may not protect you as well in a crash and may increase your risk of injury.

Regardless as to the type of seat or restraint that your child uses, all children are safer riding in the back seat rather than the front seat. Whenever possible, children should ride in the rear center seat for maximum protection.

Each state has a different law regarding the transport of children. Review your state's law and remember that best practice often exceeds the state law minimums.

Each step is an important transition for the child as they grow to ensure they are properly protected in the car. It is important to understand to not rush through the steps as a change from one step to another is not a graduation up but a demotion down in safety. The longer you can extend each step, the safer your child will be.

 

Maine CAR SEAT INSPECTION LOCATIONS

Do you need your child's car seat checked for correct installation in the vehicle and/or to know if it's the proper seat for your child? View a list of Maine Inspection Locations.