Strapping your child into the car is a critically important action for your child’s safety in the event of an accident. No one can predict a crash, but you can prepare for one as a parent. One study found that at least 618,000 children rode in vehicles without the appropriate car seat at least some of the time. About 35% of children ages 12 and younger who died in car accidents in 2015 were not buckled up. Help keep your child from becoming a statistic. Get the facts on car seat safety to protect your precious cargo.
Always Read Manufacturer’s Guidelines
When you purchase a car seat, it will come with guidelines on the appropriate ages, heights, and weights of the children the seat is for. Triple check that you have the correct restraint system for your child. According to experts, here are the general rules based on age:
- Birth to one year. Rear-facing car seat.
- One to three years. Rear-facing seat until your child reaches the maximum height or weight limit. Then, forward-facing seat with harness and tether.
- Four to seven years. Forward-facing seat until your child reaches the maximum height or weight limit. Then switch to a booster seat, still in the back seat.
- Eight to 12 years. When the shoulder belt lies across the shoulder and chest (not neck or face), you can lose the booster seat. Children should still ride in the back seat.
Pay careful attention to the manufacturer’s rules and regulations when you purchase and install a car seat. Note that car seats do expire. Check the expiration date on old or used car seats to make sure they’re still viable before using them.
You Don’t Have to Install Your Car Seat Alone
Car seat installation can make all the difference in how well the equipment protects your child in a crash. Many parents have trouble properly installing a new car or booster seat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 59% of car seats are misused in a manner that can impact their effectiveness. Luckily, several organizations make it easy to get expert help on car seat installation before you bring your bundle of joy home. Check SafeKids.org for locations on getting your car seat checked by experts. You can also check your community for local car seat check events.
Don’t Seat Children Near Airbags
Airbags have saved thousands of lives, but they can actually do more harm than good for some vehicle passengers. If an airbag deploys, the impact can be too strong to be safe for children. Airbags can injure and even kill children riding in the front passenger seat. Do not place rear-facing car seats in front of an air bag. Never let children under the age of 12 sit in the front seat. If you cannot avoid putting a child in the front seat, disable the airbag if you have the option.
Always Restrain Children
It doesn’t matter how long or short the ride will be. Always restrain your child when in the car. Buckle children in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts on every ride. Set a good example for your children by always wearing your seat belt.