There's nothing more important and precious to us than our children. We would do anything to protect them and keep them safe, but we may be dangerously unaware of a serious risk that kills children every day in the United States.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children under age 13, and many of these deaths could be prevented with the proper use of car seats, boosters, and safety belts. You may think you're doing everything you should to protect your child passenger, but you could be wrong. Take some time during the 2017 National Child Passenger Safety Week September 17-23 to make sure your child is safe in the car.
Use Child Passenger Awareness Week as a Safety Refresher
When you were expecting your first child, you probably researched infant seats, bought the best you could afford, and had it professionally installed or inspected before bringing your precious bundle home from the hospital.
You followed all the recommendations for positioning the car seat and never compromised her safety.
Then you went back to work or baby number two arrived and it suddenly became much harder to follow every safety rule.
If this is the case, now is the time to review those important recommendations and make sure you're keeping your children as safe. During this safety awareness week, take another look at which seats your children are in, how they're installed, where they're positioned in the vehicle, and whether all of this meets safety recommendations. We offer these tips for each age group to help you get started.
Perhaps baby number two arrived sooner than expected and needed the infant seat, or maybe you thought your 6-month-old was getting bored looking at the seat and you decided to turn her around early.
Whatever the case, it's important to take another look at the safety recommendations for infants under 12 months old:
- From birth to one year, your baby should be in a rear-facing seat in the back seat of your car. If your baby appears to have grown out of the infant carrier-style seat, it may be time to buy a convertible seat, which has higher weight and height limits, but keep it rear-facing until your child’s first birthday.
- If possible, place the infant seat in the center of the back seat, away from the windows.
The rear-facing position is the safest position for your baby, so keep her here for as long as possible.
Options for the Toddler
When your child is at least a year old, you may move her to a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. He should remain in the center of the back seat if possible. Make sure there's no slack in the harness straps and that the chest clip is at armpit level. Many parents loosen the strap thinking they are making their child more comfortable when they are in fact endangering the child.
In winter, take outerwear off to get a snug harness fit and cover the child in a blanket. As the child grows, you'll need to reposition the straps through the back of the car seat so they come out at or above the child’s shoulders. Your child should remain in this seat until she reaches the weight and age limits listed for the seat—usually until 40 pounds and age 4.
School-Aged Children Should Remain in a Seat
When your child has reached the limits of the harness, she may be moved to a booster seat. These seats are designed to properly position the car’s safety belt to fit the child correctly. They also offer neck support to prevent whiplash in a crash.
Children should remain in these seats until they have outgrown them, which will be at a different age for each child. Check the recommendations for the specific seat. Children are usually in a booster seat until they're 7 or 8.
No Car Seat Doesn't Mean Free Range
Just because your child has outgrown a booster seat does not mean he's an adult. After making sure the car’s safety belt doesn't cross your child’s neck, your child should wear the belt in the back seat of your car until she is 13 years old. If the car’s safety belt doesn't fit properly, you'll need a booster seat base to lift your child so that the shoulder harness fits.
Don't Compromise on Safety
You'll hear it all—whining, complaints, how other kids get to ride in the front seat—but you must stand firm in your commitment to safety. After all, your child’s life may be at risk.
If you are unsure that your seat is properly installed or that it fits your child properly, find a National Seat Check Saturday event near you for a free inspection.