Car seat safety isn’t just an area of concern just for parents of newborns. As children grow, it is important that they are in an appropriate car seat based on their size.
“There’s no magic one-size-fits-all car seat, so parents need to be familiar with the specific weight and
height limitations of their child’s car seat,” said Marie Crew, coordinator of Safe Kids Alabama and the Child Passenger Safety Resource Center. “A car seat keeps your child in the best seated position for a potential crash.”
Each year, thousands of children are injured or killed in car crashes. Because of children’s bone development and the size of their heads in relation to their torsos, their bodies can be easily injured in a car crash.
A car seat can:
- hold your child securely.
- protect your child from hitting something in the vehicle
- absorb the force of a sudden stop
- spread the force of an impact safely
- prevent your child from being crushed by other passengers.
The right seat doesn’t have to be the most expensive one in the store. “When you’re researching seats, check to see what is the highest weight and height the seat can handle. Determine which model your child can use for the longest amount of time,” Crew said.
INFANTS & TODDLERS
All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years old or until they reach the height and weight limits of the seat. Safety experts say rear facing is the safest way for children to travel because it is the best way to prevent head and spinal cord injuries. The most common types of vehicle crashes are from the front or side. Therefore, children who ride in a rear-facing seat have the maximum protection for the head, neck and spine.
TODDLERS & PRESCHOOLERS
When a child has outgrown a rear-facing seat, he should transition to a forward-facing car seat with a harness and top tether until they reach the height and weight limits of the seat.
Children who have reached the height and weight limits of their forward-facing car seat should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until a safety belt fits properly. Seat belts don’t fit children properly until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches and weigh between 80 to 100 pounds, usually between 8 and 12 years old. With a booster seat, the lap belt should fit low across the child’s hips, and the shoulder belt should fit across the shoulder. Children seated in a booster seat in the back seat of the car are 45 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than children using a seat belt alone.
The safest place for all children under the age of 13 is in the back seat of the car.
Parents and other adult drivers can set a good example by buckling up for every single car ride. When children see you use seat belts, you are helping develop lifelong safety habits.
For more child passenger safety tips, www.childrensal.org/ChildPassengerSafety.