Whether you are a parent, grandparent, babysitter or first-time expectant mother, it is important to learn about car seat safety in order to keep your little ones protected. Unfortunately, thousands of children suffer from injuries or fatalities in crashes each year. However, proper use of car seats will help decrease the chances of your kids getting hurt if you do happen to get in an accident.
If you have children, you likely have experience with using a car seat in your vehicle. However, even those who have been parents for years may not know or may have forgotten how to use it properly. Depending on the age and size of your child, he or she will have different guidelines that should be used to keep them safe. The following should help you determine which type of seat they need and how to use them properly.
Infants and Toddlers
It is recommended that babies stay in a rear-facing seat until at least 2 years of age or until they have reached the height and weight limits determined by their car seat manufacturer. Facing them forward before this time can increase their risk of injury during an accident.
There are a few different types of rear-facing seats. Some are rear facing only, which means they can be used for infants typically up to 22 to 40 pounds. These come with a carrying handle and a base that the seat clicks into, making it easy to get your infant in and out of the car. There are also convertible and 3-in-1 seats, which can be used for rear facing and then be switched into a forward-facing or booster seat once the child is old enough.
Toddlers who are over 2 years old and have gotten too big for the rear-facing car seat can now be positioned facing forward in their convertible, 3-in-1 or forward-facing-only seat. They should continue to use this device until they meet the maximum weight and height determined by the manufacturer. This is typically once the child has reached between 40 and 90 pounds. It is also recommended that toddlers remain in a seat that has a harness until they are at least 4 years old. If your kid outgrows the forward-facing seat before this age, you may want to consider finding a new one that has a higher height and weight limit.
Once children outgrow the forward-facing seat, they are now able to use a belt-positioning booster seat. They should continue to use it until the vehicle’s seat belt fits their bodies properly—typically once they are 8 to 12 years old and have grown to be 4 feet 9 inches or taller.
If the vehicle’s belts fit properly, children no longer need to use any type of car seat. To determine if an adult belt fits correctly, look for the following:
- The lap belt is snug across the upper thighs—not the torso.
- The shoulder belt goes across the shoulder and chest—not the neck.
- The child can comfortably sit with his or her back against the seat and knees bent over the edge without slouching.
Children should use lap and shoulder belts for the most safety and should remain in the back seat of the car. Once they are 13 years old, they may ride in the front.
Do Your Own Research
Although these are general guidelines, you should research your specific car seat as well as speak with your pediatrician for additional safety tips. Make sure to read the manual before installing any car seat, as well as identify the height and weight limits. Although it might seem like a long or stressful process, following these proper steps and procedures will ensure that your little one remains safe and sound.