How to select and use child safety restraint systems

Posted on November 1, 2000

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a new brochure offering guidelines for choosing and using child safety restraint systems (CSRS) on school buses. The following are some of the tips included in the brochure —“Proper Use of Child Safety Restraint Systems in School Buses.” To order a copy of the brochure or to get information on product recalls and Child Passenger Safety Technician assistance, visit NHTSA’s Website or call (888) DASH-2-DOT.

Tips on system use

Infant-only seat — Make sure that the infant’s head and neck are fully supported by placing a rolled towel or blanket alongside the head. Do not use extra inserts or other products if they did not come with the child safety seat. Also, be sure safety straps are not applied over blankets or other materials. The straps should be secured on the body before blankets are applied. Infants should be semi-reclined in seat.

Convertible — Many convertible seats are currently available that can accommodate rear-facing infants to a weight greater than 20 pounds. For an infant, the seat should be rear facing. Infants should be semi-reclined in seats with harness straps below shoulders and snug against the body. For children over 20 pounds and one year of age, the seat should be forward facing and the child should wear a full harness until he/she reaches at least 40 pounds.

Integrated — Harness straps should run above the child’s shoulders and all belts should be snug. Systems provide anchors to secure a rear-facing child safety seat.

Booster (with built-in harness) — On school buses, only booster seats with built-in harnesses can be used. Belt positioning booster seats cannot be used with only a lap belt. They require a lap/shoulder belt.

Safety vest — Vests must be sized to the child and secured at shoulders and hips. They can be used with a lap belt and a strap (cam-wrap) that wraps around the back of the seat, to which the shoulder harness straps are hooked. The safety vest can also be used if no lap belt is present, in which case the vest is attached to the cam-wrap at the hips and shoulders.

School bus driver checklist

Am I using the correct CSRS for the child?
Child should be rear-facing up to at least 20 pounds and at least one year of age. Forward-facing after 20 pounds and at least one year of age. (Use only to weight limits designated by manufacturer). Have I routed the seat belt through the CSRS as instructed by the manufacturer?
Are the child safety seat harness straps in the right slot?
Rear-facing — lower slots at or below the shoulders. Forward-facing — generally top slots always at or above the shoulders. Is the harness buckled snugly around the child?
The straps must lie flat and the harness retaining clip must be at armpit level. The harness should be adjusted so you can slip only one finger between the straps and the child’s chest. Are all infants semi-reclined?
It’s important for an infant to ride rear-facing and semi-reclined (halfway back or 45 degrees from horizontal) to support head, neck and back. You can put a tightly rolled towel or a firm foam “noodle” (pool float) under the front edge of the child safety seat to tilt it back a little so the infant’s head lies back comfortably. Are convertible seats that are being used forward-facing in the upright position?
Do all child safety seat harness straps have retainer clips?
Have I practiced with the CSRS before seating children?
Have I placed all my weight and kneeled into the child safety seat to ensure a tight fit?
The seat must not move more than one inch when pushed forward or side to side at the belt path. Do I have and have I reviewed manufacturer’s instructions for all the CSRSs in the bus?
Have I checked the NHTSA Hotline in the last three months for possible recalls? The phone number is (888) DASH-2-DOT

Related Topics: child safety restraint systems, NHTSA

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