More children are killed and injured in auto accidents than by any other safety hazard. In combating this risk, the proper use of child restraint systems vastly improves a child’s chances of surviving a car crash or escaping one with little or no injury. Yet many parents are not fully aware of the guidelines for child safety seats in the car, and others may be reluctant to adhere to them because they’re unsure about the benefits. This information covers the most current child safety seat guidelines, and will also explain why these recommendations were enacted, so that parents understand the payoff for this extra precaution.
State-by-state Car Seat Regulations
Each state has different rules and regulations when it comes to children and car seats. Since these laws are passed through the legislative process, some states are fairly safety proactive while others lag behind. Yet the science of car seat safety stays the same regardless of state law. Thus, all safety-conscious parents will want to adhere to the following recommendations, irrespective of state statutes:
Car Seat Safety Information for Infants & Toddlers
Car seat recommendations for children under two
It’s long been recommended that infants ride in rear-facing car seats, yet the latest safety recommendations expand this guideline to suggest that toddlers ride in rear-facing car seats until they are at least two years-old as well.
The purpose / effectiveness of rear facing car seats
This new recommendation comes after studies showing that children under two are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they’re in rear-facing car seats. Rear-facing car seats distribute the force of a collision over the entire body, supporting the head, neck and spine better in an accident. This is especially true of frontal crashes, which make up the bulk of all accidents.
Other infant & toddler car seat tips
Most convertible car seats on the market can accommodate a 2-year-old child weighing up to 35 pounds, so you may be able to meet this guideline with your current car seat. Contact the manufacturer if you aren’t sure.
Car Seat Safety Information For Preschoolers
Child car seat safety guidelines for preschoolers ages two to four
Children should ride in car seats until they are at least 4-years-old AND 40 pounds. Car seats are safer than the other alternatives, so the longer your child fits in it and the longer you can get them to sit in one, the safer they’ll be on the road.
The purpose / effectiveness of child safety seats in cars
Car seats use a 5-point harness system which vastly improves a child’s support in a crash. It’s the same type of harness that race car drivers use to protect themselves. The use of a car seat reduces a child’s risk of injury in a crash by up to 82%, and the risk of death by 28%, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Car Seat Safety Information for School-aged Kids
Child booster seats are needed for children up to 8-years-old and 80 pounds in weight
Perhaps the most puzzling requirement for parents to accept has been the new recommendations for booster seats, which kids should use until they are 8-years-old and 80 pounds in weight.
Why kids need a booster seat / The purpose of car booster seats
Seat belts simply were not designed with children in mind. As a result, the shoulder strap tends to sit on them improperly, riding up across the neck. Kids will either put the strap behind them, or it will strike them in the wrong spot in an accident, neither of which is good. Going without the shoulder strap can lead to what is commonly called “seatbelt syndrome.” The sudden jolt whips the child’s body forward and puts all the force of the accident on their mid-section, which can break their spine and leave them paralyzed from the waist down. Spinal or neck injuries can also occur when the shoulder strap straddles the neck rather than the midsection, and kids can essentially be clotheslined in an accident.
As simple and unsophisticated as they might seem, booster seats can fix these problems, making a significant difference in safety. It adjusts how the seat belt rests on them and positions it just enough to give your child the upper body support that will protect against spinal injuries without having the seatbelt ride too high across the neck.
Other car safety seat guidelines:
- Do not use a car seat that has been in a crash.
- Do not use a car seat past its expiration date. Over time, sunlight and ozone can slowly degrade the plastic, making it brittle. Thus, an expired car seat may offer less protection in a crash.