This week, September 19-25, is National Child Passenger Safety Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of having the proper child safety seat and using it correctly.
The number 1 cause of deaths for children between the ages of 3 and 14 are car crashes, and many of these deaths could be prevented by using the proper safety restraints every single time you put the child in the car.
Properly these seats can save children from injury and death. Between 1975 and 2008, 9000 children were saved by these seats. They can reduce the risk of fatal injury for children under 1 year old by 71% and by 54% for children between 1 and 4.
Buying the Right Child Safety Seat
The appropriate seat for each child depends on the child’s age and size, and the type of vehicle. You can get further advice from manufacturers or children’s stores, but here is a quick guide:
Consider the physics of force of impact.
In a head-on collision at 65mph, that ten-pound baby in your arms will suddenly be flying forward at over 21,000 foot-pounds of force.
No matter how much you love that baby, you will not be physically capable of holding on to that much force.
Infants should be secured in a rear-facing seat until at least one year old and 20 pounds. Recent research has shown that leaving the child in such a seat until they reach 23 months is the safest practice.
After the infant seat, move the child into a convertible child safety seat, one that can be positioned facing the rear and turned to face forward as the child grows. And if you’ve seen how kids can outgrow their shoes as you carry them from the shoe store to the car, you know how fast that growing can happen.
Until the child reaches the height/weight limits of the seat – usually 40-65lbs or 50 inches – they should ride in a forward-facing seat with a harness.
Beyond the limits of that seat, place the child in a booster seat. This will raise them up high enough to use the vehicle’s safety belts (and, incidentally, help to prevent road sickness by letting them see out the front window). Just like an adult passenger, the lap belt needs to go across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt across the rib cage and over the shoulder.
Once a child outgrows the booster seat, they should sit in the back seat and wear the lap-and-shoulder belt. If necessary, equip your safety belt with a belt extender so that it fits the child properly. No child should ride in the front seat until they reach the age of 13.
Using the Child Safety Seat Properly
The NHTSA estimates that 75% of parents do not properly use their child restraints. Improper use makes them far less effective at keeping your child safe in the event of a collision.
Whenever you purchase a child safety seat, take the time to get properly trained in its installation and use.
Local law enforcement departments have especially trained experts that can assess the safety of your child’s safety seat and instruct you in its proper use. To find a police child safety seat inspector in your ZIP code, click here.
The best motivation for using a child safety restraint is, of course, concern for your child, but there are also legal considerations.
Under the 2009 changes to Texas law, any child under 8 years old and less than 4 feet 9 inches tall must be secured in a child safety seat, according to the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the use of the seat. If the child is younger than eight years old, BUT they are already 4’9” tall, they are not legally required to be in a child safety seat system. If a child is eight years old or older, and not yet 4’9” tall, they are not legally required to be in a child safety seat system.
Anyone convicted under this misdemeanor offense may be fined from $25 for a first offense and no more than $250 for subsequent offenses.