Using age and size appropriate child car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can greatly reduce the risk of serious and fatal injuries to infants and small children. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), “child safety seats have been shown to reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants (under 1 year old) and by 54 percent for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars.”
While the use of child safety seats can potentially safe the life of your child, the NHTSA also notes that approximately 46 percent of all child safety seats (including child and booster seats) are misused in some way (improper installation and/or restraint). Deciding which car seat is best for you and your child can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult if you keep a few things in mind.
How Do I Know Which Car Seat is Right for My Child?
There are a lot of car seats and booster seats available. Before you purchase a car seat, it is best to select a car safety seat based on your child’s age and weight, and make sure it will fit your vehicle.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the NHTSA recommend the following:
- Rear-facing Car Seat – Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the maximum weight and height designed for that particular seat. The AAP and NHTSA also recommend that children ride in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible.
- Forward-facing Car Seat – Once your child has moved to a forward-facing safety seat, they should continue to ride in that type of seat until they reach the maximum height or weight limit allowed by that car seat’s manufacturer. The majority of forward-facing car seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds.
- Booster Seat – When your child has outgrown their forward-facing car seat, it’s time for a booster seat. Children should use a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.
- Seat Belt – Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should fit snuggly across the shoulder and chest, without crossing the neck or face.
When installing a car safety seat or booster seat, be sure to refer to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions as well as your vehicle’s manual for proper installation. Children should ride in the back seat for as long as possible, regardless of the type of car seat they use.
What Else Should I Know About Car Safety Seats?
Once you’ve purchased and correctly installed your car safety seat, it’s a good idea to register it with the product’s manufacturer. Like many consumer products, a car seat can be recalled due to a defect that could injure your child or loved one, and manufacturers are required to fix defects associated with the manufacturing process free of charge. If your car seat is registered with the manufacturer, you will be notified via mail or email of any recalls or safety notices regarding that particular type of car safety seat.
In addition, manufacturers of child safety seats have a duty to provide safe products and provide adequate warnings if there are risks of harm associated with their products. If a manufacturer fails to fulfill that duty, it could be legally liable for any injuries that may result. If your child has been injured as a result of a defective child safety seat, you might consider hiring a lawyer who specializes in personal injury cases to help you through the legal process.