Traveling with kids can be difficult. Making sure everyone has what they need and gets buckled up properly is a daily struggle for many parents. However, paying special attention to car seat safety is absolutely vital to protect children in the case of a car accident.
What are the Safety Guidelines for Car Seats?
Safety guidelines for children in the car usually specify four different stages. When your child is ready to progress to each stage largely depends on the child’s age, height, and weight. To keep your child as safe as possible in the car, make sure that they are buckled up in whichever seat is appropriate for them.
- Rear-facing seat
The first stage of car seat safety is the rear-facing seat. This car seat should always be placed in the back seat of the car, with the infant facing away from the front of the car. The CDC recommends keeping children in rear-facing car seats from birth until they outgrow the height and weight limit of the seat.
Many car seat safety experts recommend keeping children in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, rear-facing car seats are the safest way for children to ride as long as they fit in the seat properly. This is because the rear-facing seat absorbs most of the force from the crash while providing better support for the head, neck, and spine.
- Forward-facing seat
The next stage of car seat safety is the forward-facing car seat. This car seat should also be placed in the back seat of the vehicle; however, with this seat, the child will face the front of the car. The front-facing car seat should have a harness and a top-tether, which will help limit head movement in the event of a crash.
The CDC recommends that children should stay in forward-facing car seats until at least the age of five. However, it’s best to keep them in a front-facing car seat until they outgrow the seat’s height and weight limits.
- Booster seat
Once a child has outgrown the forward-facing car seat, they should move to booster seats. Booster seats do not have harnesses; rather, they help position the child so that the seat belt fits properly. As with all car seats, booster seats should be placed in the back seat of the vehicle, and the car’s seat belt should be used to secure the child.
The CDC notes that seat belt fit can vary depending on the vehicle,so children may need booster seats in some cars but not in others. In general, though, children should keep using booster seats until theys seat belt fits them properly without a booster seat. Most children will be ready to move out of booster seats between the ages of 9 and 12.
- Adult safety belt
The final stage of car seat safety is simply using the seat belt in the car. When the seat belt fits properly across the child’s chest and lap, they can move out of the booster seat. The seat belt fits properly when the lap belt sits across the thighs and the shoulder belt crosses the center of the shoulder and chest.
Even if the seat belt fits properly, the CDC recommends that children should stay in the back seat of the car until the age of 13. Additionally, every person, child or not, should buckle their seat belt when they get in a vehicle. Countless studies have shown that wearing seat belts reduce injuries and save lives in car crashes, so make sure to buckle up!
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Car Seat
Even when parents have the best of intentions with car seats, there is still room for error. With all the different car seat brands and models, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or confused about installation and proper usage. If you’re a parent, watch out for these common mistakes when using car seats:
Using the wrong seat for age, height, and weight
Make sure that the car seat your child is in fits their age, height, and weight. The car seat should also fit into your vehicle and be easy to install correctly every time. Again, using the right car seat for your child’s age and size will help protect them if you get into a car crash.
Make sure to install the car seat correctly according to the directions given with the car seat and your vehicle. This is important because the car seat can’t properly protect your child in a car crash if it’s installed incorrectly.
Buying used car seats
This common mistake seems to be understandable, especially when considering how expensive brand-new car seats are. However, buying a used car seat comes with some risks. First, you don’t know if the car seat has already been through a car crash and sustained damage that is invisible but makes it less safe. Second, car seats can be recalled and often have expiration dates. Essentially, it’s much safer to buy a new car seat.
Chest clips in wrong position
Another common mistake when using car seats is putting the chest clips on the harness in the wrong position. The chest clips should rest across the chest at armpit level, not on the stomach or up by the neck.
Straps too loose
Many parents also make the mistake of not tightening the straps on the harness properly. One test you can do to make sure the straps are tight enough is to try to pinch the straps at the collarbone. If you can pinch them, they are too loose.
When is it Safe to Stop Using Booster Seats?
By the time kids are using booster seats, they’re probably old enough to wish they didn’t have to. They may complain about wanting to ditch the booster seat; however, parents need to (and often do) realize that their child’s safety is more important than their child’s wishes.
As discussed earlier, kids can move out of booster seats when seat belts fit them properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt sits across the thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt sits across the chest instead of riding up to their neck.
If you’re still unsure about whether your child is ready to move out of the booster seat, you can use this test to help:
- Have your child sit straight up against the back of the vehicle seat, and see if his or her knees bend over the edge.
- Check to see if the seat belt stays low and tight across your child’s lap.
- Look at the shoulder strap of the seat belt. It must lay over the collarbone and shoulder, NOT on the face or neck.
- See if your child can maintain the correct position for an extended period of time with the seat belt in its proper place.
If your child can maintain the proper position with the seat belt, they can move out of the booster seat safely.
The Carlson Law Firm Cares
Car seat safety is so important for protecting little ones in the event of a car accident. Even if getting kids in and out of them is a hassle, the effort is definitely worth it in the end!
However, if despite your best efforts to protect them, you or your kids ever end up injured in a car accident, you can rely on caring and compassionate personal injury lawyers to help. We care, and we can help.