The Basics of Car Seat Safety

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Road trips or a trip to the store, car seat safety is as fundamental as any other care you give your children. Having a car seat isn’t enough. Proper installation is part of making car seats effective protection. Know the basics of car seat safety and look for regular updates, especially when thinking of using older child safety seats. 

Car seats reduce the chance that accidents will be fatal by 71% for infants and 54% for children under 4 years old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Basics of Car Seat Safety

Car accidents are the leading cause of child deaths—and most accidents happen within a mile of your home. Learn how to properly install your car seat and buckle in your child. Car seats can significantly reduce the chances that your child will get hurt.

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The safest car seat type for infants and toddlers is a rear-facing car seat.

Rear-facing car seats or rear-facing convertible car seats are safest and should be used by infants and toddlers. Rear-facing car seats support the head, neck, and spine against the impact of an accident better than front facing car seats. Serious injury in a car accident is five time more likely with front-facing car seats.

The emphasis on rear-facing car seats came after a 2011 study. Previously, rear facing was only emphasized for an infant car seat. But, newer information reinforces that a toddler car seat should also be rear facing for as long as possible.

Driversng recommends using a car seat longer than many state laws. A 2017 study found that we don’t use rear-facing car seats long enough. Use a rear facing car seat until your child is two years old or too big for the manufacturers maximum weight and height limits. The limits can be found on the manufacturer’s tag.

Make sure grandparents and other caretakers are aware of the new safety standards and have an appropriate car seat in their car.

Toddlers and preschoolers need a front-facing car seat.

When your child no longer fits in a rear-facing seat, they will have to use a front-facing car seat. Several convertible models are available that go from rear-facing to front-facing. Follow the guidelines, including keeping the child rear-facing until they grow too large. Any forward-facing car seat should have a harness.

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Just like the rear-facing seat, use the front-facing car seat with a harness until the maximum weight and height limits are met. child safety seats

When is my child old enough for a booster seat instead of a front-facing seat?

Booster seats are easy to forget as children graduate from child safety seats. They are critical to child safety in the case of an accident.

Four to eight-year-olds are 54% less likely to be seriously injured if using a booster seat, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The booster seat helps keep younger children at the right height to properly fit seat belts. Without a booster seat, collisions can be much more dangerous. Seat belts that lie across the stomach instead of lap can cause internal injury. Seat belts that lie across the throat are also dangerous.

Booster seats should be used until your child is 4’9” tall.

Is your child ready for an adult seat belt?

Even if your child has reached the right height, check to see that an adult safety belt is right for their development. The seatbelt should fit snugly across the lap—not higher up across the stomach.

Just remember, violating seat belt laws can result in a ticket or fine and may require taking a seat belt or defensive driving course, depending on the state.

Child safety is the law.

Each state has their own laws about car seat requirements, but there are universal ways to help keep your precious cargo safe. Practice car seat safety for babies, toddlers, and older children by age, weight, and height.

Tips for the Best Car Seat Safety

NEW PARENTS or child care providers should practice the proper installation and use of their car safety seat before the new passenger arrives.

Find the right kind of child safety seat for your child and change seats when the seat is no longer appropriate.

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USED CAR SEATS: If buying a car seat used or inheriting one from a friend, check online to see if there have been any recalls or negative consumer reviews. If buying from a stranger, you may not know that the car seat has been damaged in an accident. Saving money is never as important as saving your child’s life.

If a previously used car seat is the best option, look for the following before you use it:

  • Manufacturers tag to check for recalls and warnings
  • Any obvious damage, like cracks, or proof of an accident
  • The history of the car seat from the earlier owner

LOCAL RESOURCES: Many police stations and community agencies have child safety experts. For example, in California the Highway Patrol has special child passenger safety technicians. Check with your state, city, or county law enforcement or informational system to find resources near you.

USE A BOOSTER SEAT between the car seat and adult seatbelt.

BACK SEAT RIDERS are safest. Always have children sit in the back in their proper safety seat.

NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN IN THE CAR ALONE even if you think you will only be gone a moment. Cars can heat to lethal levels too quickly for their delicate systems. It is also against the law in most places.

DOUBLE CHECK that the car seat is properly installed and secure before setting off.

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