Ali Landry’s Blog: My Top 10 Car Seat Safety Tips

09/07/2012 at 06:00 PM ET

Thanks for welcoming celebrity blogger Ali Landry!

A former Miss USA, the model and actress, 39, most recently starred in and executive produced Hollywood Girls Night on TV Guide Network.

Landry is also the founder of Spokesmoms, a product review platform for mothers, and is a supporter of, which works to prevent childhood injuries.

Married to director Alejandro Monteverde since April 2006, the couple are parents to 5-year-old daughter Estela Ines and 11-month-old son Marcelo Alejandro.

You can find Landry on Facebook and on Twitter @alilandry.

With Marcelo at a Safe Kids event – Courtesy Ali Landry

Hi everyone,

I first want to say thank you so much for all of your posts and supportive comments of each other on last month’s breastfeeding blog. After all, that is what this is all about … sharing our stories and showing up to support each other as women!

This month, I would love to start another conversation with you guys about something that I am very passionate about — car seat safety. It all started when I heard the story of a precious little boy named Kyle Miller.

Kyle was just three years old when a reckless driver blew through a red light at 45 miles per hour, plowing into the van Kyle and his family were in. The van rolled several times and the seatbelt securing Kyle into his booster seat failed. He was thrown from the car and killed instantly.

Kyle’s parents had thought he was safe. They waited until he was over 40 lbs. to move him into his booster seat, and he was belted in properly at the time of the accident.

Estela takes a seat – Courtesy Ali Landry

When I heard Kyle Miller’s story, my daughter Estela was also 3. Imagining the devastation his family must have felt was overwhelming. There was nothing that I would have done differently had I been in their shoes. Their terrible loss could have just as easily been mine.

When I first installed my daughter’s car seat, I admit — I didn’t read the instructions. I just assumed it was intuitive, and that she was safe. I had no idea I had installed it wrong. In fact, over 90 percent of car seats are improperly installed. That is such a shocking fact to me.

Knowing what I know now, I feel such a deep sense of gratitude for Kyle’s parents. Because they had the strength to share their story, I not only corrected my own mistakes, but also decided to get certified as a car seat technician and team up with the non-profit Safe Kids to help raise awareness about child safety.

Safe Kids Worldwide is my go-to source for information about keeping kids safe from injuries. Another fact that I didn’t know was that accidental injuries are the number one cause of death for kids in the United States. Safe Kids provides proven and practical tips to keep kids safe around water, fire, cooking, medication and of course, cars.

They are a great resource for car seat information. Not only can you learn what type of restraint is best for your child, you can actually take your car seat to an event where a technician will teach you how to install it correctly. Safe Kids hosts more than 8,000 events a year.

Marcelo buckled up right – Courtesy Ali Landry

Here are some car seat tips from Safe Kids that I would love to share with you:

1. Buckle up: You too, parents. Your kids are watching!

2. Do the one inch test: Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake. A properly installed seat will not move more than one inch where the seat belt or lower anchor (LATCH) strap goes through it.

3. Do the pinch test: This makes sure that the harness straps are snug on your child. You should be unable to pinch up any excess webbing when the child is properly restrained in the seat. The chest clip should be placed at armpit level.

4. Don’t add products to your car seat: Car seats are tested for use only with the items that are sold with them. It’s tempting to add accessories, but some car seat manufacturers void their warranty if extra products are added to their seats — and none allow seats to be modified in any way.

5. Don’t be in a hurry: Parents may want to “graduate” their child to the next stage, but keep children rear-facing for as long as the seat allows. When you move to a forward-facing car seat, visit a car seat checkup event to learn how to use your seat properly in the forward-facing position. Finally, don’t stop using a booster seat until the child properly fits in the seat belt in the vehicle they will be riding in.

6. Keep children in the back seat: Until they are 13, or better still, until they are learning to drive.

7. Check the label: Make sure your car seat is right for your child’s age, weight and height.

8. Read the instructions: Take the time to familiarize yourself with the instructions for your child restraint, as well as the car seat section of your vehicle’s owner’s manual. You may be surprised what you find out.

9. Secure loose objects: They can become dangerous projectiles in a crash. Buckle in heavy objects, or store them in the trunk or under a seat.

10. Need help? Get peace of mind at a Safe Kids car seat event or inspection station.

With everyone at last year’s event – Courtesy Ali Landry

National Child Passenger Safety Week is Sept. 16th-22nd. As we prepare, Safe Kids and I will again be hosting a red carpet event sponsored by Britax in Hollywood on Saturday, Sept. 8 (stay tuned for photos!!) to raise awareness and encourage people to get their car seats inspected.

No matter where you live, you can find a list of inspection centers on the Safe Kids website. If you have young children, especially kids under 80 lbs., consider this a challenge. Take an hour and get your children’s car seats checked out. Find out if you’re one of the 10 percent of parents who have installed them correctly.

If you are, you get serious bragging rights. If instead you find out that you accidentally installed it incorrectly, then you will have taken a major step toward ensuring your family’s safety. My motto is, “Once you know better, you do better.”

Whatever you learn, please share it here in the comments. There’s nothing more important than the safety of our kids.

These two are why I do this – Courtesy Ali Landry

— Ali Landry

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Showing 46 comments

Katie on

Awesome post, Ali! So many moms don’t know this.

Shelby on

THANK YOU for this post! Hopefully it will help encourage car seat safety!

Anonymous on

Good tips! It amazes me how often I see infants in car seat carriers, and the straps are so loose they are falling off their shoulders, and the chest clip is down by their waist!!

kpmonkeymommy on

YAY! We need more celebs getting into this!

Jen on

Children should continue riding rear-facing until they reach either the height or weight limit of the seat. Age two is the recommended *minimum* at which a child can be moved forward facing.

I always cringe at Facebook photos of children with the chest clip near their belly button and the straps hanging off their shoulders. I am always the annoying commenter who says something about it.

Seriously on

“At age two when you move to a forward-facing car seat…”

Most kids will not hit the height or weight limit for rear facing until they are at least three (I say most b/c I did have one that was under 3 when he outgrew the seated height limit on his Roundabout but he was also 97% for height) so in the spirit of car seat safety maybe the wording on that sentence should be modified to note that age 2 is the minimum age that a child should forward face!

Mommytoane on

Awesome post. I’m glad for it. In our car, my DD who’s 9.5 still sits in a backless booster seat…BY CHOICE!! She loves that she’s a little higher to see out the windows and frankly I don’t mind because shes safer. She meets the height requirements for a seatbelt tho not quite weight, but she chooses to be in it so I don’t push.

We also have a rule that we do not move the car until everyone is buckled up. My mom established that rule when I was a youngin…and it has stuck.

I do agree with those of you that have said that some kids are in carseats inproperly. It is sad to see. I’ve seen little ones hopping around in the back seat…and I’m not afraid to call the troopers with their license number so I hope that they get caught. Kids are so priceless, that its hard not to savor them.

Holiday on

I remember watching the video that Kyles parents made. It was absolutely heart breaking. My son will be 7 in November and is in a Britax Regent which holds up to 80 pounds in a 5 point harness. My daughter is 28 months and is still rear facing in her Britax.

Louisiana Mama on

LOVE LOVE LOVE that you’re sticking to your southern roots and dressing your daughter in smocked angel sleeve tops and big ole bows!!!!!! 🙂

Rachel on

Absolutely LOVE this post. I teach in an at risk community program and the number of parents who don’t even utilize car seats with their 2 and 3 year old kiddos is ridiculous. We had a child in my class last year who was seated IN his car seat (his 1 year old brother was as well) but they weren’t buckled in! They were in a wreck and thrown from the vehicle. They were incredibly lucky to survive. Their mother STILL does not keep them properly restrained 😦 Children should be kept in car seats as long as absolutely possible. It’s just not worth the risk.

Sarah on

Awesome to see a celeb passionate about car seat safety! Maybe more people will pay attention because of this! One thing though, you don’t have to front face when the child turns 2. Keep then rear facing for as long as possible, even if that means they are 4 before you front face them!

Jessica on

3 year olds aren’t ready for a booster seat because they are not mature enough to sit still for the entire ride. Parents with kids who are older than that and meet the minimums for a high backed booster should not feel afraid to use a booster.

I loved this article, but unfortunately it did perpetuate the Kyle David Miller “fact” that the seatbelt failed. The investigators at the accident found no evidence that the belt failed – it was actually more likely that it wasn’t fully buckled. Seatbelt failure is very, very rare.

Pippi on

I don’t have my own kids yet, but am a nanny that drives with my charges in my car AND I drive with my nephew, also. I thoroughly appreciate this post, as well! I didn’t care that my aunt always made me put car seats in her car for years before I was driving myself, so I did know how to put them in. My first family, I went by the fire station and had someone check to make sure it was installed correctly. He looked at it and said it was perfect. I figured it was, but would MUCH rather be safe than sorry!! And I’m with others, too, that it drives me nuts when I see kids in seats that are buckled WAY too loose!!!!

Rachel on

I don’t agree with perpetuating the theory of “seatbelt failure” either. But I don’t necessarily think the belt wasn’t properly buckled. I will admit to not having read anything about this case so I’m not sure if the seat came unbuckled or if the child simply slipped from the belt, but I do know that seat belts are designed and tested for adult bodies and I have heard of accidents (one here in Kentucky where two 6-year-old children died) where children slipped from their seat belts during wrecks and were thrown from the vehicle.

If you think of the design of a seat belt and the width of a seat belt path, even if you tighten it there is still too much room for a small child and they can slip through the belt. Car seats with harnesses get rid of this possibility altogether and should be used as long as possible (they make seats that last up to 70 lbs. harnessed — that’s a big kid!) and then the booster seats help lessen the space and position the belt – both on the waist and on the shoulders – properly.

There is no reason with the car seats made today that ANY child should be riding in a regular seat belt before the age of 8… closer to 10 or 11. My goddaughter just turned 6, is average size and rides in a Graco Nautilus. She has TWO harness slots left to go above where she is right now. She will likely stay in the harness until she is 8 at this rate. Her brother will be 8 next week and just moved into the Graco Turbo Booster because he outgrew the harnessed seats by height (he’s a tall kiddo!). He will likely be able to stay in that seat for another year or two.

I bought them both their car seats because their mom said she had no clue what she was looking for. I totally respect her honesty! If you don’t know, ASK. I don’t understand the rush of any parent to get their kids out of seats.

Pippi on

A friend of mine’s 7 year old (now 8) kept complaining about having to sit in a booster still. She told him that if a cop saw him not in it, he’d be arrested. He then REFUSED to ride in a car without one. You couldn’t force him to if you wanted to! He’s very much a rule follower, though, so she didn’t really need to take it that far, but it did the trick anyway!!

blessedwithboys on

I’m a huge carseat safety freak! My now adult son used a LBB until he was 11yo and my now-10yo still does. In fact, every time he leaves to go with his father, I make him repeat “Booster seat, shoulder belt, headrest”…the 3 things he needs to ride safely in a car.

But I do take exception to the suggestion in this blog that 24 mos is the magical age to go FFing. Ali, please ask to edit what you wrote to indicate that 24mos is the minimum!

Reesca on

What a great post! It’s refreshing to see a post about car seat safety – something that isn’t shared enough! Thank you for posting this!!

cn tower on

blessedwithboys – what does LBB stand for?

Acorr on

Guidelines for seat belt safety seem to have changed so much since my oldest was born and he’s only 9. I remember my doctor saying he could be forward facing once he turned a year and weighed more than 20 lbs, which was no problem since my children are not only tall for their ages but solid in their weight. My sons pediatrician was concerned that at his age his legs were much to long to be rear facing. The same went for my son who is now 5.

Rachel on

Acorr — sadly there are still pediatricians who will tell parents these guidelines and I still have parents and friends who constantly say that their children can’t stay rearfacing because their child’s legs are too long and they will be uncomfortable or in danger of leg injury. The fact is, children accomodate by crossing their legs, sitting with their legs bent, etc… and while yes there are reports of leg injuries rear facing, there are MORE reports of leg injuries forward facing only added coupled with the many, many reports of injuries to the spinal cord, head and neck that don’t typically occur with rear facing.

The reason the regulations and recommendations have changed is because studies have been conducted that show these conclusions. It’s up to the parents and doctors to do the research and make the changes.

CJ on

Yes, the MINIMUM age to do forward-facing is 2 years. You should keep them rear facing as long as the height and weight limit on your seat allows — that info is listed in the manual. My daughter was rear-facing until 3, and will be in her 5 point harness as long as the weight limit allows. On her seat, that is 80 pounds.

CJ on

That should have read “until 3.5.”. Many kids could be rear-facing even longer.

MiB on

How refreshing to see a baby properly restrained in a car seat! All too often you see too loose or even twisted straps, too low chest clips and plenty of add ons (not to mention all the children in improper car seats for their age and size). I know from experience that a properly used car seat (and preferably rear facing beyond the age of 2, if possible) can be a matter of life and death for a young child. Keep up the good work! (Also, how awesome to see a celebrity car seat tech!)

To those complaining about the use of “seat belt failure”, seat belts “fail” even adult men and women as they are created for men of average height, in most vehicles that means you must be at least 5 feet tall (and not be all legs) to be safely secured by a seat belt. Many children don’t fulfill that requirement at 40 lbs even in a booster, which means that he may have slipped out of the seatbelt even if he was properly belted in a booster seat.

Children are also not known for their ability to sit still, so even if the seat belt was properly positioned when the journey started, it may not have been at the time of the crash, it could have slipped because he slumped a bit, he may have moved it because it was rubbing against his neck, or it might have become loose because he bent forward to retrieve something or hear someone better or see something through the window. In that regard, I think you can call it a seat belt failure, the seat belt failed him by default through construction. (Incidentally, in the 50’s and early 60’s seat belts had to be designed to fit both a 95th percentile male AND a 5th percentile woman, so a lot of people would actually sit safer if the old seat belt standard still applied, alas once crash test dummies became mandatory, testing reverted to representing a 50th percentile male.)

@ Anonymous on September 10th, 2012
blessedwithboys – what does LBB stand for?
Not sure if you still read this, but LBB stands for low back booster, i.e. booster cushion.

TRenee on

I’m 20 & I don’t have any kids yet, but I do keep a car seat in my car for my nephew & I just learned so much. I went and checked the car seat and it moved more then an inch, I thought it was safe. Thank you for the article! You’re someone I look up to.

AB on

As a pediatric resident, I want to commend you for this fantastic blog and for letting people know about SafeKids and the new AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) guidelines. Safe Kids is a great organization and in addition to the website, you can probably find a site at your nearest children’s hospital. They offer classes and check your carseats and even give out free carseats to people who attend their classes (of course, that last part is dependent on their funds at the time). 🙂

Also, it’s obvious by the posts how many of you care–thank you guys for helping to spread the word and keeping all our kids safe!

Amanda on

So happy to see this post! I’ve been a car seat nut since I read about extended rear facing when my son was about 6 months old.

I bought a Britax Marathon and he stayed rear facing til he was 2. The Marathon I had only rear face to 33lbs and he hit that weight at 2. If the MyRide (or any other 40lb rear facing seat) had been around then he would have rear faced to 3.5-4. I had so many people telling me he could foward face at 20lbs..someone actually said he could FF when he could hold his head up. WHAT??

Now he’s almost 6 and rides in the harness in a Frontier and a Nautalis (sp?)..he just started Kindergarten and he’s the only kid I see at parent pickup in a car seat. In fact, most of the kids just hop in the car without so much as a booster seat…and of course they throw the shoulder belt behind them because they’re too small for the seatbelt and it cuts across their face.

Unfortunately there’s no booster seat in Florida, so once a kid turns 4 they only have to wear a seatbelt. I try to tell people and they just roll their eyes. I actually had someone say “He’s still in a car seat? She rides in the front seat with me” it was something to brag about. I just said “Car accidents are the number one killer of children” and walked away.

Siobhan on

Good post, precious cargo in those car seats after all! Its actually amazing how you can see in different reality shows how some of the kids are not in their car seats correctly. I find that if you push down on the seat hard while tightening the car belt it really helps to avoid any movement at all, not even the one inch rule.

ColeB on

Yay for a celeb who actually knows about carseat safety! My daughter is only 11 months and RFing in her Britax, you’d be amazed at how many people say, “aren’t you excited to turn her on her birthday!”. Um, no. She’ll be RFing as long as humanly possible!

Kate on

My daughter is 6 and just moved into the Graco Turbo Booster as she outgrew her other car seat due to her height(she’s in the 98%). But it’s a highback booster and she will stay in that until she outgrows it. Another tip I received from the tech that put my car seat in before was that when you start using the regular seatbelt instead of the harness, pull it all the way out so that it locks. That way the kids aren’t moving all around and if an accident happens, that seatbelt will keep them in the seat better.

Lindsey on

My husband is a state trooper and they have numerous troopers certified in child seat installation. It is a week long class. Many police departments and fire departments have certified personal able to make sure your seat is in correctly.

teresa on

acoor, thanks for your post because i was confused by everyone saying kids should stay rear-facing until they were two. in california its still 20 pounds and one year as far as i know. i was curious what states the rest of you are from or if the law in cali has changed since my daughter was born four years ago and i never got the memo 🙂

Elisa on

How do you get certified as a car seat technician?

I would love to do that. My 3 kids are out of boosters but I think it would be great to educate others. We had our seats checked at the fire station when they were young. I have never seen any Safe Kids events in our area. I see children that are not in the proper safety seat all the time. It would be great to have stations set up at our schools.

Katie on


I think most state laws still say that a child must be 1 and 20 pounds. However, research says that’s not the safest, children under two are 75-80% less likely to be injured in an accident if rear facing. In 2011 the AAP officially changed their recommendations to wait to forward face until 2 and 30 at the minimum and suggests waiting until the child outgrows the weight and height requirements on your carseat.

guest on

cutest kids ever-lil boy is a doll-both are

Anonymous on

Item #11: check the expiration date on your car seat! 😉

B on

Ohhh YES!!! Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you Ali!! My twins will be three on Halloween and they are still rear facing. I wish this would get more press. There is so much controversy about vaccinations and organic or not, to mention a couple, but not much about car seat use. I was so excited to actually hear a radio announcement the other day on it.

I just want parents to be informed. I always want to help without parents thinking I am attacking their parenting or being a know-it-all. Most people simply do not know. Like the child in the story many kids ride in boosters way too soon but parents don’t know any better because they are following the seat instructions. I didn’t know with my oldest and faced him forward at 6 months. He was big and outgrew the infant seat, so when I upgraded I just thought it faced forward. I just didn’t know or pay too close attentiont to the manual. Boy do I know different now. My boys will RF until the 45 lb. limit on thei seats.

Thanks again for this Ali. And God bless you and your beautiful family 🙂

Allison on

I don’t see that anyone added this one: Kids should never wear bulky clothing in the car. Puffy clothing can compress in a crash and the straps would then be at risk of slipping off and not doing their job. Warm up the car and put babies/kids in with just their regular clothing. Cover with a blanket or put the coat on backwards OVER the straps once they’re strapped in.

Glojean on

I have nieces and nephews from 5 months to 6 years, that come to our home frequently. I took the car seat to the police station and had them show me how to properly install the car seats.

I also think that if a child is 13 and under 5’3, it would be best for them in back seat. Air bags cause less injuries to people 5’3 and 5’11. I am 4’11 and tried to have my air bag removed, but was advised that it is against the law.

taller people have more injuries when air bag is deployed.

Anonymous on

I was under 80lbs until i started high school…. kind of ridiculous to expect a teenager to use a car seat!

4mom on

I think one of your rules should be “know your state laws for safety seats”. Every state varies on their laws and you are not exempt just because you don’t know the laws of the state you are in.

I live in Oklahoma and our state laws on child safety seats are that the guidelines on the seat must be followed. That’s it. Every seat can be different based on the age and weight of the child and how big the seat is.

That said I do want to note that keeping a child rear facing until 2 or older is an AAP recommendation, not a law. I think it is a good recommendation and keeps children safer, but it cannot be enforced unless a state has adopted it as law.

Beachymom on

Thank you for this article, and I really hope that this helps more people open their eyes. Car seat safety is a huge passion of mine. My son just turned 4 last month, and was rear facing until he outgrow the rear facing max on his seat 2 months ago. Granted he has always been slightly smaller at 40%, but not a lot in the grand scheme. My 8 yr old is actually big for her age and always has been around 75-90% for her height and weight and is still harnessed in a Britax Frontier.

Most people say that I am way too strict when it comes to car seat safety. In my opinion it is just such a small thing to do to keep my kids safe. I just don’t understand why so many people are so laid back when it comes to car seat safety and choose to rush their kids onto the next seat (ie boosters) or out of their seats completely.

janie on

My husband was “in charge” of installing the car seat for when our first baby arrived. He did that part correctly, but then when we brought our son home from the hospital and probably for at least 3 other car trips after, he put the baby into the straps wrong! I was so exhausted, it took me a day or so to figure out why the baby looked “off” every time he was in the infant seat. We kind of laugh about it now, but we are just lucky nothing happened.

My additional tip: Only soft toys and cloth books for our son while riding in the car seat. Nothing hard, plastic, metal. Heard some horror stories.

WA_MaMa on

This is so refreshing to read. So many children are killed every year by improper restraints in cars.

I too found the Kyle Miller Foundation (on Facebook actually) and learned a lot about car seats and when to “graduate” to the next seat and have done extensive research since then.

I wish that the US would create strict laws for carseat and children under 12. Seatbelts are meant for adults, and more and more belts are designed for obese adults (this is the US after all)…these will never properly restrain a 2-3-4-5 year old. But you see so many little children just strapped in with a belt like it’s no big deal.

My 7 yr old still rides in his Britax Frontier. Best $200 I ever spent! My brother in law gives me so much crap about his using it, while his children are just thrown into the car with simple low-back boosters (and they have been since AGE 3!!) It breaks me heart to know that if they were in a car accident it is very likely that they would be severely injured or even killed just because Daddy thinks carseats are overprotective.

heather on

Recommendations and laws are two different things.

Kidd on

Great to see someone take up this cause! It’s tempting to think we know it all, but that’s why there are trained experts to help!

Keep up the good work!

Cathleen on

Great tips. Ali, your children are so lovely!