Car Seat Terms Right Now!

When it comes to safety for passengers in motor vehicles, children are the most at risk. All of the safety features in vehicles are designed for adults of normal size. The smaller stature of kids puts them in danger from some of these devices that are designed to save lives. For example, an air bag can seriously injure a child, if proper precautions are not met. This is why many newer vehicles have a sensor in the front passenger seat that will not activate the airbag unless a certain amount of weight is present in the seat. Children below a certain size should always be in a special seat that is designed to keep them safer in automobiles. It is important to be as familiar with these seats as possible before you attempt to install one or use one yourself. For more information on the safety of child passengers in automobiles, please see the Centers for Disease Control Injury Center.

Air Bag – Safety device, composed of hidden inflatable bags that deploy upon impact in a motor vehicle. Common locations for placement in vehicles are inside the steering wheel and in the dashboard on the passenger side.

Belt Path or Route – The safest route for the seatbelt to be placed in conjunction with the child safety seat for maximum protection and restraint.

Belt-Positioning Booster Seat A booster seat for older or larger children that raises the seated child to height similar to a seated adult. This enables the lap and shoulder belt in a rear seat of a vehicle will fit correctly for a child.

Child Restraint – The general name given to any device or system, car seats included, specifically manufactured for child safety in a motor vehicle.

Compliance Tests Testing accomplished by the manufacturer, third party reviewers or the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency to ensure child safety restraints meet federal standards.

Convertible Seat A specific type of child restraint, a convertible seat can be used in different configurations. It can be used either forward or rear facing for infants or toddlers, up to approximately 40 pounds.

Five-Point Harness – Term that describes a harness with five separate attachment points and is appropriate for children up to 40 pounds. The harness attaches over each shoulder, on either side of the hips and one point between the legs of the child.

Forward-Facing Seat Incompatibility – Certain vehicles and car seats are incompatible with each other due to design features in automobiles that can hamper the proper fit of child seats. Incompatibilities can include the placement and shape of seat cushions or seat belts.

Harness with T-shield A pad in the shape of the letter “T” and connects to the shoulder straps. It sits on top of the child's hips and stomach while latching between the legs. This type of harness is not suitable for infants.

Harness with Tray Shield Also referred to as an overhead shield, a curved plastic arm is attached to the upper portion of the shell on a car seat. Once seated, the arms pivot downward and cover the child’s lower hips and abdomen and are latched. This type of harness is not suitable for infants.

Infant Seat Any seat designed specifically for infants, this seat is rear facing only. These seats have a weight limit of approximately 30 pounds.

Lap Belt – A horizontal restraint in vehicles that only secures over an individual's hips, this is anchored at two points to the vehicle.

Lap/Shoulder Belt – A restraint in vehicles that combines a horizontal lap belt and an angled shoulder belt, this is anchored at three points to the vehicle and provides substantially more protection than a lap belt only.

Latch Plate – Normally found in lap belts in the middle rear seat of automobiles, this portion of the buckle is used to tighten or loosen the seat belt.

Locking Clip A metal clip found at the rear of a car seat that assists in providing a tight and secure fit when used in conjunction with the vehicle's seat belt. The locking clip is flat and shaped similar to the letter “H”.

Retainer Clip – This plastic clip is utilized in conjunction with a three or five point harness system and should always be adjusted to the armpit level of the seated child.

Shell The outer portion of a car or booster seat, typically made of plastic.

Shoulder Strap Slots Cut-outs in the car seat that are used to route the shoulder straps through when installing the car seat. There can be up to three different sets at differing heights to allow for a child to grow in height and remain in the same car seat.

Shield Booster Seat A certain type of booster seat that has a removable shield to accommodate larger children. When installed, the shield fits across the hips/lap of the child. Once the child reaches a certain height or weight, the shield is removed to allow use of the lap and shoulder belt in the vehicle.

Sliding Latchplate Also referred to as a free-sliding latchplate, this is normally found in a lap and shoulder belt combination that allows the belt to slide in either direction easily.

Special Needs Children Any child that can require a car seat designed specifically to accommodate their physical or behavioral condition. These types of restraints include a car bed or harness, or a car seat designed for a child in a cast for a broken limb.

Tether Strap – A strap that secures the car seat to a designated place in the vehicle and offers more security that the vehicle belt system alone. Normally found at the top of the car seat, some have more than one tether strap.