Parents and caregivers take various measures to safeguard their children around their homes. The same attention to safety also extends to when families leave the house. Rules in place concerning vehicular safety are designed to keep kids safe on the road.
Car seats, boosters and seat belts provide protection for infants and children when used correctly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. The NHTSA’s General Estimates System states that, in 2016, 394 children age 5 or younger died in car crashes. However, in that same year, 328 were saved by using car seats.
The right car seat can save lives, but parents, especially those expecting their first child, can easily become overwhelmed by the various types of seats on the market. Understanding the different seats, and when and how to use them, can help parents navigate their options.
Choosing a car seat
There are various types of car seats, and each may be appropriate depending on a child’s age and size.
- Rear-facing: This is the best seat for young children, as it cradles the child to reduce stress to the neck and spinal cord.
- Forward-facing: This has a harness and tether that limits child’s forward movement during a crash. It is typically used for children age 2 and older.
- Booster: This is a seat that elevates and positions the child so that the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly over the child’s body.
Seat belts are used when children outgrow boosters. They should lie across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest.
Each type of safety seat has subsets that further customize the fit and positioning for the child.
When to use a car seat
First and foremost, visit a governing agency website to determine the laws where you live in regard to car seats.
The automotive agency AAA provides a state-by-state and territory/province rundown of rules governing car seat use at drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/child-passenger-safety. This can help residents learn which type of car seat is needed and how long to use it.
Residents of Oregon must keep children under age two in a rear-facing seat. Children who weigh 40 pounds or less must be in either a rear- or forward-facing child passenger restraint system. Children younger than eight, under 40 pounds or are 4 feet 9 inches tall or shorter must be in a safety system that elevates them, such as a booster seat, so that the lap and shoulder belt fit them properly.
Installing the seat
Read the car seat instructions and refer to the vehicle’s owner’s manual for proper installation. Seats for young children utilize low anchors that max out at certain weights for installation. Most forward-facing and booster seats rely on tethers to install.
Child car seats save lives and help keep little ones protected on the road.