How do I keep my child safe in the car?

Real Mom Problem

“I haven't been in an accident since my boys were born. But I've been in three myself; two of which fractured my back. So I'm super paranoid.”

by MommaBunch84 MommaBunch84

Quick Tips

  • 1. Make certain your child safety seat is properly installed
  • 2. Know your state's child safety seat laws as well as the current car seat safety recommendations
  • 3. Keep your vehicle free of unnecessary or unsecured debris such as toys and books
  • 4. Avoid distractions while driving and observe speed limits and traffic rules
  • 5. Toddlers should never ride in the front seat of a vehicle if there's a useable back seat

Real Mom Solutions

Learn how to keep your toddler as safe as possible when riding in your vehicle with the help of the real moms of CafeMom!

It's Not Just About the Car Seat!

  • kirstensmommie

    No eating in the car.

  • corrinacs

    I use 4wheel drive in the winter. We live in NY. It snows and gets icy. The jeep with its 4wheel drive is great. We make sure the tires are good, the tread and air pressure.

  • saltyalley1227

    I try to keep it clean and free of debris. I put anything we buy in the far back/trunk. I've read a great percentage of car accident related injuries are due to flying debris within the vehicle.

  • saltyalley1227

    Drive defensively, not offensively. In my neck of the woods, everyone wants to be the "first car" to get through traffic or whatever. Just be courteous.

  • AHmom103

    The most important thing is to be alert. You can't keep your kids safe in the car if you aren't being a safe driver. For me, that includes making sure the kids know they must be fairly quiet, keeping them happy (fed, make sure they have drinks, before we get in the car), and making sure that I'm not distracted by anything else while I'm driving.

  • MommaGreenhalge

    I have heard that if you aren't willing to throw it at your kid's face as hard as you can, then you probably shouldn't keep it unsecured inside the car.

  • MommyFlood

    While we don't tolerate yelling or throwing things in the house, we especially don't allow it in the car.

  • k.stark

    I also was told in a 50mph crash a box of tissues is like a brick flying around in your car.

  • cutestmom24

    I always have a toy for her to play with so that she doesn't try to escape her car seat when she gets bored.

  • mypbandj

    I try to be mindful of what toys are in the car - soft books and soft toys. I don't want to drive with heavy objects that are likely to become projectiles in a crash, and that includes the shades with suction cups!

Should I Choose Extended Rear-Facing?

  • Barronbaby

    It's really a personal choice. The Acadamy of Pediatrics recommends rear-facing children until at least 2 years of age. For my family this is what we go by. But if you buy a rear facing seat that goes to 35-40 lbs then why not rear face your child until they reach the max weight limit?

  • Randi02

    Rear facing offers 75% more protection than forward facing seats do. I don't think its being overprotective to give your child the best possible shot at survival. I think its neglectful not to, and I would not be able to live with myself if I could have prevented their death.

  • countrygirlkat

    When my first two kids were younger we had never heard of extended rear-facing and we were told to forward face them at a year old so we did. Now that we have learned a lot more we are definitely advocates of extended rear-facing.

  • ktwister

    It is your responsibility as a parent to properly educate yourself on your child's safety; especially car seat safety. If I am going to be driving 65 mph hour and get into an accident, I want to know that I am doing everything possible to protect them. Fact is that child is better protected when rear-facing. If they get a broken leg so be it. The most important thing is their spine, neck, and back will not be taking the force of the crash. My child is not a minimum and I will not value my child's life on minimum requirements.

  • Bree0922

    Toddlers should rear-face until they max out their seat for rear-facing. Rear-facing is proven (by crash tests done by the NHTSA) to be 5 times safer and the child has a 75% higher survival rate than a front-facing child. The spine doesn't start to ossify until 4 years old and doesn't finish until around 6 years old. So, front-facing before then greatly increases the chances of the child being internally decapitated.

  • inkedmommy1414

    Just a tip, feet touching the seat is totally irrelevant. It has nothing to do with safety, and you can absolutely leave them rear-facing long after their feet hit the seat. There are no documented cases of breaking legs from rear-facing, but it is a common forward-facing injury.


    Your rear-facing child is the safest person in the car. Older rear-facing children can have their seat more upright than infants, and are in no danger of hurting their legs. There are no documented cases of broken legs in a properly used, rear-facing child. In fact, broken legs is the most common injury among forward-facing children.

  • bowling_mom

    Before I researched I thought everyone turned at 1 year and 20 lbs. My oldest only rear- faced till a little bit after her 1st birthday. My almost 2 year old is still rear-facing and I plan to try to get her as close to 4 or older. The bones are still maturing and I feel like it's too much of a risk if she wasn't rear facing.

Should I Choose Forward Facing?

  • Kandiface

    We turned our son around at 1 because he hated being rear-faced. He made our car rides miserable and nothing soothed him. Now that he's forward-facing, he loves car rides and my migraines from them have lessened.

  • Salsacookies

    I turned my daugher when she was 1 and over 20 lbs. She's always been a tall girl. To keep her rear-facing would be very uncomfortable for her and would probably give her legs cramps because her legs are so long. She didn't like being rear faced and would throw screaming fits until we finally turned her around. I think that is more unsafe than her being faced forward. With her not screaming anymore, I can invest my full attention to the road and be aware of what others are doing.

  • PaganMom2285

    As soon as my son was a year old I spun that little guy around. I did that because by 1 year his legs were getting so long he was scrunched up in an uncomfortable position rear-facing with his knees pressing up into his belly. Poor kid hated riding in the car until I turned his car seat around.

  • M0M0F03

    I turned all 3 of our kids around as soon as allowed. I had been in one bad car accident. When my husband and I got out of his car and looked in the back seat, his trunk was sitting in the back, literally. I hated my kids facing the trunk. And, I would still turn them as soon as possible, even knowing all I know now. Some things you never forget. Maybe the odds are better if they are never know though.

  • Simply-blissful

    I turned my daughter around when she was one because we were taking a road trip and knew it would be easier to give her snacks and drinks. My plan was just to have her like that for the trip but when I tried to switch her back she was very mad and hated it so I just let her be. She met the requirements so I didn't see any harm.

  • Kmary

    My kids (particularly my oldest) absolutely HATED rear facing. There was hardly a car ride his entire first year of life where he wasn't screaming for most of it. I believe it made him car sick. Distracted driving is by far one of the most unsafe things for a person to experience, so then I had to choose which was the lesser of two evils: forward-facing at a year in a proper seat or driving anxiously and distracted everywhere I went.

  • Kmary

    Between my children being very tall, my oldest getting occasional carsickness when rear-facing and them being pretty miserable in the car when they were staring at the back of a seat, I ultimately chose to not do extended rear-facing. I've been judged by plenty of people about it, but it wasn't a decision I made lightly and I'm fine with it. I believe in basic safety, did my research on safest car seats, had them installed properly, etc., but I did make the "unsafe" decision to turn them around a bit after their first birthdays.

  • crazy_mommyof2

    My kids kicked and screamed so hard that it would get me distracted from the road. I was scared of crashing. So as soon as they were forward-facing, everything was much better. No more tantrums, and I am not nervous anymore when driving. My respects to the ones that extended rear-faced, either their children are extremely well behaved or they are strong enough not to let the screaming and crying get to them.

  • momtolittleg

    We ALL would be safer rear-facing, but you gotta turn forward at some point, and for us, that point was 1 year.

  • mamaclairbear

    I turned my son around at 1 because I need to drive a lot with him and his continued screaming while on the road was very distracting... To the point I was afraid I was going to be in an accident. I figured him being forward facing would be safer for everyone, him, me, and the people on the road.

Moving from a Car Seat to a Booster

  • Bree0922

    Absolute bare minimum is 4 years old AND 40 lbs. (anything before that, you risk submarining which means the child will literally slide right underneath the belt). But that is bare minimum. Most children at that age are not mature enough. The reason why 4 AND 40lbs. is considered safe is because when they do testing, they're using a dummy... not a typical wiggly, impatient 4 year old. Most children aren't ready to booster until about 6 years old. A child is ready to be boostered when he or she meets the minimum requirements and is mature enough to not mess with the belt (putting it behind their back, under their arm, etc.), not lean side to side or to the front, no slumping, and be able fall alseep without slumping. High-back boosters are always better than no-back boosters because the high-back has side-impact protection (protects the head and the body) while the no-back booster doesn't. No-back boosters are best only for kids that still need a booster but have outgrown high-back boosters.

Which Car Seats do Moms Recommend?

  • 2girlsMom.MN

    My absolute favorite seat (we've owned well over 15 seats) is hands down Britax Marathon. There is nothing bad to say about this seat. It's a breeze to install, has fit nicely in every vehicle I've ever installed it in, the seat is comfortable, fabric covers come in a variety of fun cool patterns and colors. The seat cover washes nicely and I've never had one I couldn't get a stain out of. My kids prefer this seat over every seat we've had. I honestly can't think of one bad thing to say. It's a very sturdy car seat with high end, durable, great quality materials from the plastic seat, to the harness straps and buckles and everything in between. I've owned 4 Britax Marathons from 2004- Currently.

  • banana-bear

    For what's on the market now, I would suggest a TrueFit Premier - good price point, anti-rebound bar and will work nicely for those long-torso'd kids. There are other seats with higher weight limits, but in my experience, the seat is outgrown by height before weight.

  • countrygirlkat

    Now that we have learned a lot more we are definitely advocates of extended rear facing so for us the best car seat for a toddler is a convertible one that can rear face and forward face. We haven't tried too many of them but of the ones we have tried and the ones in our price range, our favorite by far is the Evenflo Triumph 65 LX Convertible Car seat. It is super soft and padded, very roomy and really seems safe. I think you should keep your child in a car seat as long as possible because it is much safer then a booster and the older they are before the do the booster the more mature they will be to follow the rules and sit correctly.

  • .Angelica

    I'm no expert, and I'm not a trained CPST, but I have seven kids, so that should give me a leg to stand on. The seat that fits the child, fits the car and is easiest for you to use properly is the best seat. Every seat on the market passes the same safety tests, so no one seat is "safer" than any other seat. A brand new $35 plastic costco seat is better than an expired $300 Britax seat. If your child was in a convertible seat as an infant they will probably be two-and-a-half to three before you need to buy a toddler seat, if not older. Don't make the mistake of buying a seat with a low harness weight, you will just be wasting your money.

  • Bree0922

    Rear-facing is safest. So, the longer you can rear-face, the better. My personal goal for rear-facing is at least 4 years old. So, in my personal opinion, finding a seat with a tall shell and a high weight limit is key. My favorites for toddlers are: Evenflo Momentum, TrueFit Premier, Britax Roundabout55, Graco MyRide65, and my favorite: Clek Foonf.


    There is no 'best seat for every child.' The best seat for YOUR child is the one that fits your child, your vehicle, your budget, is installed properly, and used correctly EVERY time. But there are certain seats we generaly advise against, such as the traditional 3-in-1's; rear-facing, to forward-facing, to booster. They try to do too many things and don't do any of them very well. They tend to have very low top straps, making them outgrown quickly- and make scary boosters. If you have one and it's working for your child, don't fret. But if you're shopping now- don't buy. A good convertible will keep your child harnessed until you are ready to booster- at least 4 and 40 lbs. Don't forget- every step up in seats is a step down in safety. Don't rush!

  • BroCosMom

    I personally prefer the MyRide65 and it goes rear facing to 40 lbs. My 31 lb, 32 in, 27 month old is still rear facing in his and he loves it and so do I.