According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), automobile accidents are the number one killer of children aged one to 12 years. While it is always important to have auto insurance, one of the best ways to protect your most precious cargo is to choose the correct child car seat and use it the correct way — every time. What’s more, every U.S. state requires that an infant or small child be restrained when riding in a car.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a comprehensive resource on car seat safety. Here are a few important highlights:
Infants – Until the age of two or your child reaches the maximum weight listed by the car seat’s manufacturer, all infants and toddlers should be restrained using a rear-facing car seat. This includes the first ride home from the hospital with your bundle of joy.
Toddlers/Preschoolers – Children who have exceeded the maximum weight or height limit of a rear-facing car seat or are two years of age and older should be placed in a forward-facing car seat. This car seat should contain a harness and be used without fail.
School-Aged Children – Once a child has exceeded the height and weight limits of the forward-facing car seat, he or she should be placed in a booster seat equipped with belt positioning. The child should use the embedded booster seat belt-positioning until the vehicle seat belt fits appropriately. Typically, the vehicles seat belt can be used on children between the ages of eight and 12 or once a child has reached four feet nine inches tall.
Other Child Car Seat Safety Tips
If your infant slouches in her car seat, place a small blanket or diaper between the infant and crotch strap. Be careful not to place any padding behind or under the baby.
When shopping for car seats, keep in mind that there isn’t really one that is the safest or the best. And the most expensive car seat isn’t necessarily the best either. A car seat that fits your child properly, is installed correctly, and is used relentlessly every time you drive with your child in the car, is the best car seat for you.
Avoid using a car seat that has been recalled. To find out if a car seat has been recalled, you can call the manufacturer or contact NHTSA at 888-327-4236. Alternatively, head over to SaferCar.gov and search for a specific car seat recall.
When purchasing a brand new car seat, make sure you fill out the registration card right away. This is extremely important in order for you to be notified promptly that your car seat has been recalled.
Always read the car seat’s manufacturer’s instructions. Learn how to properly install the car seat and how to use the latch or equipped seat belt. Make a point of knowing the weight and height limits so you know when it is time to stop using a specific car seat. If you don’t have the car seat’s instructions, the manufacturer’s name and phone number should be listed on the car seat’s label. You can call their customer service number to have the instructions sent to you. Some car seat companies have the instructions on their website.
To have your car seat inspected by a certified technician near you and learn how to properly install your car seat, use the NHTSA car seat inspection station locator.