Plastic Child Safety Seats: Protecting Our Most Precious Cargo

Plastic Child Safety Seats: Protecting Our Most Precious Cargo Image

On the road, lightweight, durable plastic safety seats go the extra mile to protect our youngest passengers.

Most children under the age of eight spend a considerable amount of time traveling in car seats, and thanks to innovations in plastics, are able to do so safely.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, child safety seats – when installed and used correctly – are extremely effective in saving children’s lives, reducing the risk of death in passenger cars by as much as 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers.

Today’s car seats are made of durable plastics, and safety is a primary focus for designers as standards for different types of seats continue to improve.  Some child seat features include three- and five-point harness systems, one-step harness adjusters, recline adjustments, shock-absorbing foam padding, head impact protection and fire-resistant upholstery – many of which are made possible because of various polymer materials.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration suggest the following things to keep in mind when choosing and using a child safety seat:


  • Infants should be secured in special infant safety seats. Infant-only car seats are specialized and have a carrying handle. These should be used only for infants up to 20 or 30 pounds, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Convertible seats also can be appropriate for infants provided they are used in the rear-facing position.  Convertible seats should remain rear-facing until a child is at least one year old AND at least 20 pounds. 

Toddlers, Preschoolers and Larger Children

  • Children over age one AND at least 20 pounds may ride facing forward in an appropriate safety seat.
  • Several types of front-facing seats are suitable for children 20-40 pounds, including convertible seats (used forward-facing), forward-facing only seats, and high-back booster seats with harnesses.
  • Children should be kept in a safety seat with a harness until they are at least 40 pounds.
  • For larger children, use a belt-positioning booster seat until they reach about 4’9” tall (57 inches) and weigh about 80 pounds. Booster seats lift up the child so a seatbelt will fit correctly across the chest and are designed for children who have outgrown a traditional safety seat but are too small for standard seatbelts.
  • A child is ready to use a standard seatbelt system when the strap lies across the child’s shoulders and chest (not his/her neck) and the lap belt rests on the child’s hips (not his/her stomach).
  • Children under twelve years of age should ride in a vehicle’s rear seating area.

Other important safety seat tips include these:

  • To determine whether a particular safety seat is a good fit for your car or truck, ask your retailer to try a seat or model in your vehicle before purchasing it. 
  • Always read the owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have your child safety seat inspected to make sure that it is installed properly.  Check to see if your local fire or police department conducts safety seat inspections or offers installation assistance, or use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s online Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator.
  • Never place a rear-facing safety seat in a front seat where an airbag is present.
  • Do not place extra padding under your child’s car seat. This can cause the seat to become unstable or cause the straps to shift to an unsafe position.
  • Keep harness straps snug and at armpit level using a harness clip.

ICP and EPS Make a Tough Case
Impact Copolymer Polypropylene (ICP) is the leading material used in car seats and high-back boosters. ICP is a lightweight, crystalline polymer that provides an excellent balance of stiffness and toughness for this type of application. The low density of the ICP permits safety features to be designed into the car seat and/or booster, providing improved protection without making the seat heavier.

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) also is used to manufacture children’s car seats. Its excellent thermal insulation, mechanical protection properties and shock absorbency make EPS another great polymer for these products. 

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