Does your child really need to be in a car seat? According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, “All states and territories require child safety seats for infants and children fitting specific criteria, but requirements vary based on age, weight and height.” (For rules by state, click here.)
Why? According to SafeRide4Kids, in 2011, more than 650 children ages 12 years and younger died and another more than 148,000 children were injured in car crashes in which they were occupants. Of those who died, more than a third were not restrained.
Help protect children in your car by using the right restraints, following these guidelines from Parents Central, a website provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Note: children should ride in the back seat, especially because of the risk of injury or death if the airbag deploys.
Types of Car Seats and Restraints
- Infant Car Seat (Rear-Facing only): Designed for newborns and small babies, from birth to eight or nine months.
- Convertible Seat or All-in-One Seat: For children up to three years or until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. (The All-in-One Seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster seat as a child grows. Because it can be used with children of various sizes, it allows for children to stay in the rear-facing position longer.)
- Convertible Seat, Combination Seat or All-in-One Seat: For children from four to seven, or until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.
- Booster Seat with High Back, Backless Booster Seat or All-in-One Seat: For children eight to 12 years old or until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.
- Seat Belts: For children 12 years and up, or when they can fit in a seat belt properly: the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and shoulder belt snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.
- Use the NHTSA‘s car seat buying guide to help pick the right seat. (The Ease of Use Ratings Guide is also helpful.)
- Review the Car Seat section on the Consumer Reports website for ratings and recommendations.
Safety Starter Tips for Car Seats
- Each car seat and vehicle type is different. Be sure to read the instruction manual for your car seat and the owner’s manual for your vehicle before your first ride with a new baby.
- Not all car seats can be installed securely and snugly in all vehicles. When installed, make sure your car seat doesn’t move more than 1″ either forward or backward or side-to-side. A loose fit can be dangerous.
- The safest place for your child’s car seat is in the back seat of the vehicle. This is the area that is most protected from the impact of a crash.
- In the summer, parts of your car can heat up enough to burn. Vinyl and metal can burn to the touch, so try to always cover them with a blanket in the sun. Also, remember that metal seatbelt latches can burn small hands.
Safety Seat Inspection Stations
Need help with your booster seat? Want to make sure you’re using it correctly? Get help from a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician who is trained in installing car safety seats properly and work at child safety seat inspection stations around the country. To find a Safety Seat Inspection Station in your area, visit NHTSA.
WHN TIP – Traveling or using a rental car? You can also rent a car seat along with your car – costs will range between $2-10. Ask the rental car company to help you properly install your car seat. They may have trained car seat installers on staff.
For More Information
A site hosted by the The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Parents Central offers general consumer information about car seat safety, lists the state booster seat requirements and also features a child safety seat inspection station locator. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), under the U.S. Department of Transportation, sets and enforces safety performance standards for motor vehicles and investigates safety defects. NHTSA also conducts research on driver behavior and traffic safety.
Buying a Safer Car for Child Passengers
This guide covers general child seat use information, safety features for child passengers and other factors to consider when purchasing a car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), under the U.S. Department of Transportation, sets and enforces safety performance standards for motor vehicles and investigates safety defects. NHTSA also conducts research on driver behavior and traffic safety.
Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families
An extensive guide to correct seat usage, safety tips and a general guide to car seats listed by manufacturer, size limits and price. The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 pediatricians committed to the attainment of optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.
Photo Credit: Pam Simon