Using Car Seats and Restraints Correctly

Using Car Seats and Restraints CorrectlyYour child’s car seat can mean the difference between life and death in a car accident. For this reason alone, you want to ensure that their car seat is not defective nor part of a recent recall. Parents want to protect their children from danger as much as possible, and that includes protecting them while riding in a car. However, the design of a car seat is not the only important element; it is important for parents, and all caretakers, to understand how to use a car seat properly.

How do car seats make a difference in a car accident?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that car seat use helps reduce the risk of injury for children in car accidents by 71 to 82% when compared to seat belt use alone. The organization also reports that booster seats help reduce the risk of serious injury by 45% for children between the ages of four and eight.

How should parents and caregivers position car seats?

Traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries in children can be prevented by proper use of car seats. Depending on a child’s weight and age, parents can position car seats facing either the rear or the front of the vehicle. Rear-facing is generally the safest way for infants and toddlers to sit in a car. Because the car seat is facing the rear of the vehicle, the car seat will absorb the impact of an accident and protect the child from being ejected from the vehicle.

With the forward-facing method, children are seated in a forward-facing car seat with a harness. Another type of car seat for older children or toddlers is a booster seat. Similar to forward-facing car seats with harnesses, booster seats come with a specific seat belt that can keep children from being seriously hurt in a car accident.

For many parents, figuring out which car seat is appropriate for their child can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are specific requirements that can help determine the best car seat and method to use.

What determines which type of car seat a child should use?

The CDC states three factors determine which car seat is appropriate for a child:

  • Age of the child. Parents are required to use the rear-facing car seats for infants and toddlers until they are four years old. From four to five years old, children are required to be seated in a forward-facing car seat. Children between the ages of five to nine years old are required to sit in a booster seat. Once a seat belt fits a child properly, the child is no longer required to travel in a booster seat. This usually happens between nine to 12 years old.
  • Height of the child. Infants and toddlers who are 49 inches or less in height must travel in a rear-facing car seat. Children between 29 and 49 inches are allowed to travel in a forward-facing car seat. Children between 43 to 52 inches are allowed to travel in a booster seat.
  • Weight of the child. Infants and toddlers between four and 50 pounds must travel in a rear-facing car seat. Children whose weight ranges from 22 to 65 pounds are required to travel in a forward-facing car seat. Children between 40 to 100 pounds are required to travel in a booster seat.

What happens when a child is not properly restrained in a car seat?

Children who are not properly restrained in car seats can suffer serious injuries. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports 607 children under the age of 13 died in car accidents in 2020. From those accidents, 211 children were unrestrained or inadequately restrained at the time of the accident.

Some of the ways that children can be seriously injured or killed in a car accident include:

  • Being thrown against the car
  • Being ejected from a car
  • Experiencing significant skull deformation
  • Suffering from serious internal organ injuries
  • Having a suppressed chest wall
  • Suffering from crushed organs like the abdominal organs, heart, and lungs

How can I make sure my child’s car seat is safe for use?

Some of the important actions that you can take to make sure that your child is properly safe in a car seat include:

  • Purchasing the proper car seat. Parents should not use a used car seat without taking the proper time to learn specific information. If you want to use a used car seat, ensure that the car seat comes with specific instructions and a label with information like the manufacture date and number. You also want to investigate whether the car seat has been recalled or has any visible damage.
  • Installing the car seat correctly. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for both the car seat and your vehicle to make sure that the car seat is tightly secured and positioned correctly.
  • Ensuring your child is positioned correctly. When positioning your child’s car seat, it is important for children to ride semi-reclined. This ensures that the child’s airways remain open. As your child grows, the angles at which they must be positioned will have to be readjusted.
  • Resisting the urge to move too soon to a forward-facing car seat. Some parents move their children to a forward-facing car seat too quickly, as they want to be able to see them in their rearview mirror. Before moving to this type of car seat, you want to make sure that your child is at the right age, height, and weight requirements first.

At Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys, we are dedicated to serving injured infants and children. Our personal injury lawyers played a major role in obtaining a nationwide record award in a case involving child injury, and want to help your child recover as quickly as possible from their preventable accident. Call us today at 816-471-5111, or complete our contact form for your free case evaluation. We also serve injured clients in Lee’s Summit, St. Joseph, and Parkville, MO, as well as Olathe and Overland Park, KS by appointment only.