Frequently Asked Questions
1. Where can I find information on transporting children with special needs?
The best safety seat for your child depends on his or her specific physical needs. In some cases, a conventional seat works. In others, a seat that offers more support and adjustability may be necessary. Some “special needs” manufacturers and their products can be found at www.snugseat.com, www.columbiamedical.com, www.britaxusa.com and www.ezonpro.com. Look at what products are available to help determine what is best. Either way, involving your health care professional can be helpful.
You may also benefit from consulting a specialist in transporting children with special health care needs. The National Center for the Safe Transportation of Children with Special Health Care Needs serves as a resource for families, health care professionals, transportation providers and child passenger safety advocates. The National Center has a toll-free hotline staffed by child passenger safety technicians who are experienced in resolving issues associated with the transportation of children with special health care needs.
2. When is it OK to leave my child home alone?
Developmentally, children are generally ready to be home alone around the age of 12 or 13. However, children develop at different rates, so use your own discretion, within the boundaries of the law, to determine your child’s maturity level and capabilities.
For example, if you have an impulsive 13-year-old who is a big risk taker, you might be hesitant to leave him or her alone. On the other hand, a thoughtful 11-year-old who has a good track record of following household rules might be ready.
3. Are there any laws or guidelines that say when it’s safe to leave my child home alone?
Most states don’t have regulations or laws about when a child is considered old enough to stay home alone or babysit another child. Some states have guidelines or recommendations, but these often come from child protection services and are administered at the county or other local level.
For information about your specific local regulations and laws, contact your child protective services agency. If you need help locating your state child protection services agency, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s Website.
4. What is the best car seat?
Child passenger safety technicians get this question all the time. We wish we could tell you to buy “X” brand and know that it would be the perfect seat for your child. But the best car seat is the one that’s best for you. “You” means whoever is going to use it: parents, caregivers and especially the child.
That said, here are a few things to think about. The seat should:
- Fit your child by age, size, physical development and maturity level
- Fit in your vehicle
- Fit your budget
- Meet all federal safety standards (look for the label) and be easy to use
- Be comfortable for your child
- Have never been in a crash
- Have instructions available
- Have a known recall status
We recommend that all children ride in the back seat. Never place a rear-facing child restraint in the front seat if the air bag is turned on. If it is necessary to place a child in the front seat, be sure the air bag can be turned off.
Always consider the needs of each passenger. Although there may be many seating positions in a vehicle, not all may be suitable for installing a child restraint. For example, the center rear seating position may not be good for installing a child restraint if there is a hump or a molded seat that makes it hard to fit the car seat into that position. Check the child restraint manufacturer’s instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual to find out if there are certain seating positions that cannot be used, such as side-facing or rear-facing vehicle seats.
As long as the child restraint fits, the center rear seat is fine to use. Many families prefer this position, but its use can be limited by the number of children who ride in the back seat and whether they annoy each other when seated side by side. If you are having even the slightest trouble, questions or concerns, certified child passenger safety technicians are able to help. Safe Kids hosts thousands of car seat inspection events across the country. We encourage every parent with a child under 10 to attend one. Find a car seat inspection event in your area.
5. Where can I get a free car seat?
Please contact your local Safe Kids coalition to attend the next car seat checkup event. Some coalitions can provide child safety seats to families in need, but please be aware there could be a fee for the seat, and that fee is based on the individual coalition’s guidelines. Contact a Safe Kids coalition near you.
6. Are there different types of booster seats?
- Belt-positioning booster: These devices position children so that vehicle safety belts fit correctly, and they often have safety belt guides to maintain that positioning. Boosters provide a transition from child safety seats with harnesses to vehicle safety belts. Belt-positioning boosters guide the lap belt snugly across upper thighs, position the shoulder belt snugly across chest and collarbone, and allow the child’s knees to bend so correct positioning is maintained. They can be used ONLY with both lap and shoulder safety belts, and have weight ranges from 30-40 pounds to 60-100 pounds (depending on model).
- High back belt-positioning booster: This style provides support for a child’s head and neck, and is especially useful if the base of a child’s skull (center of the ears) is above the top of the vehicle seat when he or she sits in a booster seat. Some models also provide a place for a sleeping child’s head to rest.
- Backless belt-positioning booster: This style is less expensive than high-back versions, and is appropriate if a head restraint is built into the vehicle. It has lap belt guides, and some models have shoulder belt adjusters.
7. How do I determine if my booster seat fits right?
- Sit with hips back against the booster seat (or against the vehicle seat for a backless booster), with knees bending comfortably at the front edge of the seat.
- Keep the lap belt low and tight on the hips.
- Place the shoulder belt across the mid-chest and shoulder.
- Adjust the head restraint properly.
- Even if the child is not present, booster seats should be secured in the vehicle at all times. When not buckled in, the booster seat is a projectile (an object that can be tossed around the vehicle, causing injury to occupants during a crash or sudden stop).
8. Are there different laws for booster seats across the United States?
All states and territories of the United States have child occupant protection laws in place. Because they are minimum requirements, though, most state laws do not fully represent “best practices” for safely transporting children. Laws vary from state to state, but the laws of physics remain constant. Crashes do not become less violent when we drive across state lines.
To learn more about child safety laws and regulations, please visit the safety legislation section of our website. To date, 47 states and Washington, D.C., have some form of a booster seat law. In many states, Safe Kids coalitions were actively involved in advocacy efforts to upgrade child restraint laws.
9. How do I report unsafe children’s products?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the federal agency charged with collecting and responding to public complaints about unsafe consumer products. You can report an unsafe product on the agency’s website.
We also recommend that you sign up for recalls under the Product Recalls Section of our website.