Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
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Monroe Carell Jr.
Children's Hospital
at Vanderbilt
2200 Children's Way
Nashville, TN 37232

(615) 936-1000

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Child Passenger Safety Tips


Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death among children ages four to 14. It is important that parents understand how to properly use car seats, booster seats, and seat belts. Car seats that are correctly used have been proven effective and reduce the chance of death by 71 percent for infants and toddlers. However, nearly 85 percent of safety seats in Tennessee are not installed correctly.

Follow these tips to help prevent injury.

  • Have your car seat checked by a certified child passenger safety technicians. Attend a community car seat check to ensure that your child's safety seat is appropriately installed.
  • Make sure that all passengers are properly restrained in your vehicle. Do not let any child ride without the appropriate car seat or seat belt.
  • Children under 12 should remain in the back seat.
  • When properly installed, car seats should not move more than one inch side-to-side and front-to-back.
  • The harness clip should be level with the child's armpit.
  • Review and stay up to date on the Tennessee Child Restraint Law.


  • A child must remain rear-facing until at least one year and 20 pounds, although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends remaining rear-facing as long as possible until your child reaches the upper weight limit of a convertible car seat.
  • In a rear-facing car seat, the shoulder straps should be at or below the child's shoulders. 
  • A rear-facing car seat should never be placed in front of an active airbag.


  • A child may use a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness when they reach a minimum of one year and 20 pounds.
  • A child must remain in a car seat with a five-point harness until they reach four years and 40 pounds.
  • In a forward-facing car seat, the harness straps should be at or above the child's shoulders.

Young children

  • Children may come out of their five-point harness at age four and 40 pounds and move in to a belt positioning booster seat.
  • A belt positioning booster seat must be used with both lap and shoulder belts and should be placed in the back seat of the car.
  • A child fits appropriately in a booster seat when the lap belt sits low and snug across the hips and the shoulder belt crosses the chest and shoulder (not the neck or face).
  • All children 12 and under should sit in the back seat.


  • In Tennessee, a child must be nine years old and four feet, nine inches tall to use the lap/shoulder belt without a belt positioning booster seat. 
  • To make sure your child is ready for an adult safety belt, they should be able to:
    1. Sit all the way back on the seat with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
    2. The lap belt should fit low and snug across the upper thighs or hips and the shoulder belt should cross the chest and shoulder.
    3. Maintain the correct seating position for as long as you are in the car. This means he or she does not slouch or shift positions to make the belt touch his face, neck or stomach.
    4. If your child passes this test, they are ready to ride in the car without a booster seat.
  • Children must be at least 13 years of age to ride in the front seat.

Need a car seat for your child? Visit our Safety Store at Children's Hospital!

More Information

Last Edited: November 28, 2016
Valued Participant of Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network