Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. But many of these deaths can be prevented by properly using child car seats. Every parent and caregiver is responsible to ensure that all children under their care are as safe as can be at all times. While riding in a motor vehicle, the only way to do this is to ensure the child is properly restrained. Children under 12 years old don’t belong in the front seat!

Car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants (aged <1 year) by 71%; and to toddlers (aged 1–4 years) by 54% in passenger vehicles.

Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children aged 4–8 years when compared with seat belt use alone.

For older children and adults, seat belt use reduces the risk for death and serious injury by approximately half.

The timeline of car seat requirements
As the American Academy of Pediatrics updated in August 2018, children should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, up to the limits of their car safety seat. This will include virtually all children under two years of age and most children up to age four.
Once they have been turned around, children should remain in a  forward-facing car safety seat up to that seat’s weight and length limits. Most seats can accommodate children up to 60 pounds or more.

Children who have reached the height and weight limit for a forward-facing seat must use a belt-positioning booster seat in the rear seat until they are 4 feet, 9 inches in height, typically between 8 and 12 years of age, when the vehicle seat belt fits properly.
When they exceed these limits, child passengers should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they can use a seat belt that fits correctly.

Once they exceed the booster limits and are large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use a lap and shoulder belt.
All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.

Car seat safety tips

Always follow your car seat’s height and weight limits. Make sure your car seat can be correctly installed in your vehicle. Keep the retainer clip (chest clip) fastened at armpit level – not over their belly. Be sure to check the weight limits on LATCH-fastened car seats. In order to use the LATCH system, the sum of the child’s weight and the weight of the car seat must be no more than 65 pounds. If the weight exceeds that, use a locking seat belt to secure your car seat.

What to do if you get into a crash
Recent studies demonstrate that child safety seats can withstand minor crash impacts without any documented degradation in subsequent performance. Read and follow your manufacturer’s guidelines.

The NHTSA recommends that child safety seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash, defined as a crash where ALL of these criteria are met:
•The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site
•The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged
•There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants
•The air bags (if present) did not deploy
•There is no visible damage to the safety seat