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Keeping Children and Infants Safe – A Guide to Proper Car Seat Use

Statistics tell us that cars and trucks are getting a little bit safer; recent years have seen some of the lowest traffic accident fatality rates on record, and we know more about trauma and crash-readiness than ever before. Still, all the knowledge and protection in the world doesn’t mean a thing if it isn’t properly put to use, and this is often the case when it comes to child safety seats and booster seats. Motor vehicle collisions are still the number one cause of death and injuries to children between the ages of 3-14 in the United States, and the fact that 3 out of every 4 parents don’t properly install and use their kid’s safety restraints only exacerbates this problem.

According to studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children that ride in age and size appropriate car seats and safety restraints reduce their chance of serious and potentially fatal injury by more than 50%, so our lawyers want to provide you with the resources you need to help keep your kids as safe as possible. What follows is a guide to proper safety restraint usage throughout the various stages of your child’s life: (National Safety Council)

0-12 Months-Any child under one year old should be riding in a rear-facing car seat. Generally speaking, there are three main kinds of rear-facing car seats: infant-only seats, convertible car seats, and 3-in-1 car seats. Infant car seats can only be used safely in the rear-facing position, while convertible and 3-in-1 seats may feature higher weight and height accommodations to allow you to keep your car seat longer. Children should always ride in the back seat.

1-3 Years Old-It’s important not to rush into buying a front facing car seat as soon as your child reaches one year old. Remember that the height and weight requirements are what matter, and that rear-facing seats are the best way to keep young kids safe until they are physically able to use a forward-facing seat with a harness. Only once your child has outgrown his weight and height should you make the switch.

4-7 Years Old-Again, try to keep your child in a car seat as long as possible. Once they have outgrown their second car seat, it is okay for them to travel in a booster seat that will protect them. Seat belts are often too big for young kids, and instead of the shoulder harness being at the chest, it is closer to the neck, which can be very dangerous in the event of an accident.

8-12 Years Old-As we alluded to in the previous section, for a seat belt to keep one safe, the lap belt must lie across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt should be snug against your child’s shoulders and chest. Even when your child reaches this stage, it is still safer for them to be seated in the backseat. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; SaferCar.Gov)

To make sure that you have properly installed your child’s safety devices each time, consult one of the thousands of NHTSA-certified child passenger safety technicians around the country; it’s an easy trip, and it will keep your mind at ease.