Selecting the appropriate child safety seat can be an overwhelming task, but is critically important. In this article, we hope to “buckle down” on the information surrounding car seat safety. We want to equip you with the proper knowledge regarding child safety seats and vehicle restraints.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, child passenger safety is improving but vehicular collisions continue to be the leading cause of death in children ages four and up. It is estimated that child safety seats reduce the risk of injury by 71-82% when used properly. Extensive research and data collection have been conducted surrounding this topic and the guidelines have been recently simplified.
Children 0-2: For children ages 0-2 years, the appropriate child safety seat is a rearfacing unit centered in the back seat of the car. As the child grows, many parents are concerned that their legs are crowded or too long to remain in the rear facing position. Young children often sit with their legs crossed naturally. This position is the safest for them. When your child is older than 2 years of age, or alternatively exceeds the maximum weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of the safety seat, then you may take the next step in car safety seats for your child.
Greater than 2 years until too large for 5-point harness: Once your child has reached two years of age or has exceeded the weight or height limitations of their rear-facing car seat, you may put them in forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness. Continue to position the seat in the back row of the vehicle. Use this position seat until your child reaches the limits for height and weight listed on the decal located on the side of the seat. Remember to check the total weight of the child and seat to determine if using the LATCH system or the car’s seatbelt system would be most appropriate for your child.
After outgrowing a 5-point harness: After they have progressed passed the limits of the safety seat and harness strap, your child may sit in an appropriate belt-positioning booster seat. Your child should remain in a booster seat until they are big enough for regular seat belts. This is generally considered to be 4 feet 9 inches tall (57 inches) and 80 lbs. Children should remain seated in the back seat of the car until they are at least 13 years of age.
If you are interested in doing some research on your own, you can head to www.safercar.gov. This website contains a wealth of information on the different types of car seats, how to install the seats properly and the current recommendations. I encourage you to research individual car seats and read reviews about them before making a purchase and, as always, talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions. You can also visit your local police department for assistance with installing your child’s car seat.