What’s a startling statistic that no parent wants to hear? Car crashes are the leading cause of death in children ages 1-13 annually. While that statistic can be alarming, the good news is that there are steps parents can take to greatly reduce the risk of fatalities and injuries to their children. Child Passenger Safety Week takes place in the third week of September and was created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in an effort to bring awareness not only to the unnecessary number of child injuries and deaths each year in automobile accidents but to the importance in proper car restraint and seat belt usage for children riding in vehicles as well.
Child Car & Booster Seats
Car seats, booster seats and seat belts have been proven to save lives and prevent injuries but shockingly it’s been found that anywhere between 72% and 84% of all restraints being misused in a critical way. Some of these errors can include car seats installed improperly, using the wrong seat for the child’s age and size, loose harness straps and not being secured tightly with the seat belt. But while these critical errors are occurring so frequently, nearly all parents believe their own child’s car and booster seats are being used properly. Clearly understanding what type of seat your child should be in and how to properly use them is step one in preventing unnecessary harm.
- Infant Car Seat – Infant car seats are designed to be used rear-facing only and from newborn babies to older babies until they outgrow them, often at 8 or 9 months of age. Once they are outgrown (usually around 30lbs), it is recommended that parents move their child to an all-in-one car seat or convertible car seat. Infant car seats should be tilted at a 45 degree angle, with chest clips even to their armpits and snugly secured across their chest and over hips.
- All In One Car Seat – All in one car seats work to grow alongside your child, beginning with rear-facing to forward-facing and then becoming a car booster seat when the child is ready. This option allows for children to remain rear-facing longer (up to age 2) which many experts agree decreases both the risk of death and injury in children.
- Convertible Car Seat – Convertible car seats can give parents more options for usage while also allowing children to remain rear-facing longer. As all in one car seats, convertible car seats can be used with a harness and tether and allow for children to remain rear-facing up to age 2. Convertible car seats do not convert to booster seats in the future.
- Booster Seats – Booster seats are designed to boost a child’s height allowing seat belts to sit properly across their body and lay properly along their lap. Booster seats with high backs also can provide head and neck support for vehicles that do not have headrests while backless booster seats are available for vehicles that do have headrests that can support the child properly. Booster seats are recommended for children ages 4-8 years old and until the seat belt can sit correctly, typically when the child is 4 feet 9 inches tall.
- Seat Belts – While there is the recommended height of 4 feet 9 inches, it is important that parents keep their child in a booster seat until the seat belt can be worn properly with the lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder harness laying snug across the shoulder and chest (not across the face or neck). Kids may begin asking if they can sit in the front seat once a booster seat is no longer required but it is strongly recommended to keep them in the rear seat until at least age 12.
In addition to utilizing the correct seat designed to keep your child safe at every stage, it is highly recommended that parents register their car seat and booster seats so they can be made aware of any recalls that take place and to have their car seat checked annually to make sure it is installed correctly.
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