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 Car Seat Safety

  • Over the last 5 years, there has been an 18% rise in injuries to children (ages 1-12) in Delaware as the result of motor vehicle crashes*
  • 4 out of 5 car seats in Delaware are not properly installed*
  • Children are 5 times safer riding rear facing than forward facing**
  • Do not rush to transition your children to the next step**
  • 4 out of 5 child safety seats in Delaware are not installed correctly**

In terms of proper use and installation, we suggest the following:

  • Keep children rear facing as long as possible.  Convertible car seats can extend rear facing limits based on weight and height.  Don’t rush to move children to the next car seat stage.
  • Forward facing with a five point harness is recommended as long as possible per the weight and height limits as recommended by the manufacturer.  Always use the top Tether with forward facing seats as available.
  • Keep children in boosters until they fit the seat belt appropriately without it.  Usually between ages 10-12, their feet must touch the floor, knees bent naturally at the edge of the seat, and the seat belt crossing their chest plate.
  • Be sure to check the harness fit on the child.  Make sure the retainer clip is not too low and the harness is tight enough, passing the “pinch” test.

Click here for easy car seat installation instructions.

Car Seats Are The Law

Delaware’s child restraint law reads:  “All children must be properly restrained in a federally approved child safety seat appropriate for the child’s age, weight and height up to 8 years of age or 65 lbs whichever comes first.”

Additionally, children 8 through 15 years old are required to be properly secured in a seatbelt. Children under 12 years old or 65 inches in height are still required to sit in the back seat if there are active airbags in the front passenger seating position.

The fine for violating the law is $25.00 plus court costs.

The Right Seat For Your Child

As research and technology in child passenger safety evolves, the answer is frequently changing. In short, the ‘best’ car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and one you will use every time your child is in the car. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just updated its guidelines as of March 2011 to make that answer easier for parents.

  • Under the age of 1 – Children must always ride rear facing
  • Ages 1 through 3 – Keep your children rear facing for as long as possible in either an infant or rear facing convertible seat. They should remain rear facing until the height and weight limit for rear facing use on that seat has been reached. This may result in many children riding rear-facing to age 2 or older
  • Ages 4 through 7 – Keep children in a forward facing seat with a harness to the maximum height and weight limit allowed by the seat. Then transition them to a booster seat.
  • Ages 8 through 12 – Keep children in a booster seat until they either exceed the height/weight requirement for remaining in a booster seat or until they are big enough to fit the criteria for fitting appropriately in a seat belt. The shoulder belt should lie across the shoulder and chest, not cross the neck or face, and the lap belt must lie across the upper thighs not the stomach.

Need Help Interpreting the Guidelines?

Call one of the OHS Fitting Stations:

  • New Castle County – 302.434.3234
  • Kent County – 302.744.2749
  • Sussex County – 302.387.2324

The Office of Highway Safety provides car seat checks and education for caregivers free of charge in all three counties in Delaware. Visit their website at

 * data is from the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services
** information provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration