According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), injuries from motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of injury in the United States. However, most states do not require children to be buckled up in a car seat or booster seat through 8 years old, the age recommended by the CDC.
Even if the law doesn’t require all of the recommended safety measures for child car seats, parents can take extra steps to make sure their children are as safe as possible on every car ride.
1. Choose the right car seat for your child’s age and size.
For children under the age of 8, a car seat or booster seat is recommended. A rear-facing car seat is recommended for children from birth to 2 years old. A forward-facing car seat is recommended for children from ages 2-5, and children age 5 and up should use a booster seat until a seat belt fits properly. The recommended height to begin using a regular seat belt is 57 inches. Age guidelines are recommendations, but children should move to the next stage if they exceed the height and/or weight limits of their car seats.
2. Learn how to properly install and use your child’s car seat.
In addition to getting the right car seat for your child, you need to be able to install and use it correctly for it to be effective. Read the instruction manual carefully and keep it in your car. The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) also has child car seat inspection stations where you can get hands-on help. For a list of locations, go to safercar.gov.
3. Young children should never sit in front of an airbag.
Children under the age of 12 should always sit in the back seat. The front seats have airbags, which can kill a child. A rear-facing car seat should also never be placed in front of an airbag. If possible, have your child sit in the middle of the back seat because it is the safest seat in the vehicle.
4. Always buckle your child up, even if it’s just a 5 minute trip.
The law requires you to buckle up, no matter how short the trip. Accidents can happen even when you are close to home. It’s better to err on the safe side and take the extra minute or two to get your child buckled in.
5. Register your child’s car seat.
Car seat manufacturers offer registration for their car seats, but many people don’t take advantage of it. You should register your child’s car seat because it allows the manufacturer to contact you about any recalls or safety issues. Car seats and booster seats will come with a registration card that you can fill out or mail off, or you can fill out a form on the manufacturer’s website. NHTSA has links to the registration forms for many car and booster seat manufacturers.
6. Set a good example.
Kids learn by example. If you don’t buckle up, they won’t want to either. Set a good example and wear your seatbelt on every car trip, no matter how short.
We can reduce the number of injuries and deaths among children in car accidents if we make safety the number one priority. While there are some factors on the road that are out of our control, car seat safety is one factor we can control.