Car Safety Seat Confusion: Advice from The Auto Professor


Keeping our children safe in cars is probably one of the most important health-related issues that parents, grandparents and caregivers face. From the moment we take our newborn on their first car ride until the day we FINALLY give them permission to use the “grown-up” seat belt, their little lives are in our hands and we must do all that we can to protect them.

In 1971, the first regulations passed about child safety seats (CSS) and these “medical devices” became the standard to keep our kids safe on the roads. However, just like any other medical device, new research may lead to improvements with the actual car seat or the recommendations on how to use them. Surely in 2019 we know more about child safety seats and car crashes than we did in the 1980’s when I was strapping my baby into her seat. Now that I’m a grandmother and watching my daughter and son-in-law wrestle with their car seats and question how to use them, I became very motivated to educate myself about car seat safety so that I could help educate others. That led me to become a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). The training program is run by SafeKids Worldwide which follows curriculum from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The National Child Passenger Safety Board provides the recommendations and guidance.

Going into this training, I knew that I would be installing car seats, and I did, one after the other. I was a sweaty mess squeezing myself in the backseat of so many different types of cars. It wasn’t easy, but I was a pro by the end and could install a car seat in a just a few minutes. The importance of this lesson hit home when my daughter told me that they missed a flight because they didn’t allow enough time to install and uninstall two car seats in the Uber taking them to the airport. I had to suppress a chuckle, saying “Yup, I understand!”

Perhaps the most confusing question surrounding child safety seats is “When can I turn my child around?” Having a 3-year-old grandson and a granddaughter who is 20 months, this topic was very important to me, and I learned, even those in the medical community may not have the current information.

Take for instance a couple I met at a “Check Your Child Safety Seat” event. On the advice of their pediatrician, they had their 13-month-old son in a forward-facing car seat and were eager to make sure the new installation was correct. They were surprised and disappointed when we told them that they should turn the seat back to rear-facing. I understood their resistance. Our recommendation went against their pediatrician’s advice, plus they had to deal with a disappointed toddler.

So, on what basis were we making this recommendation and why did it differ from the pediatrician’s advice? Perhaps the pediatrician was a little behind the times. In November 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a new recommendation to keep children rear-facing “as long as possible.” The AAP says, by doing this, we give the best support to the child’s head, neck, and spine in the event of a crash.

You may be wondering what does “as long as possible” mean? Again, looking at the AAP report, the most important pieces of information to consider are the child’s size and the guidelines on the car seat. Every car seat comes with stickers with guidelines as to when the car seat can be used rear-facing and when it can be used forward-facing. (A good reason to not tear off the stickers!)

If in doubt, take the time to take your car and your car safety seat to a Child Passenger Safety Technician. Typically, you can find one at your local fire station. Just call and make an appointment. It only takes a few minutes and you walk away comforted your little one is safe in the backseat, whether rear-facing or forward-facing.

A child safety seat is one very important factor in keeping our family protected. But the most important is the family car. If you are thinking about changing your car or you just want to double-check its safety rating, use I created this website because no one else was telling the truth about safety ratings. Every year, the government gives the majority of vehicles a 4 or 5-star rating. But these ratings are based on crash tests in a lab with dummies behind the wheel. The Auto Grades that you’ll find on are ratings based on nearly two decades of real-life crash data. Cars that have the strongest track record of protection get an A, the worst get Ds and Fs. They are easy to understand and will help you to make the necessary decisions in keeping your family safe.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here