According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. In 2013, 638 children ages 12 and younger died in motor vehicle crashes. Another 127,250 were injured.
Many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented with the use of a proper child safety seat. Car seat use reduces the risk of death for children under age 1 by 71 percent and children ages 1 to 4 by 54 percent. Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury in children ages 4 to 8 by 45 percent compared to the use of seatbelts alone.
If you want to ensure children riding in your car are doing so safely, you’ll need to do the following:
- Know your state’s child passenger safety laws. While requirements vary based on age, weight and height, all states require child safety seats for infants and certain children. Many require children to ride in the rear seat whenever possible, as well as the use of rear-facing infant seats, forward-facing child safety seats, and booster seats for older children. You can review state-by-state laws here.
- Make sure the car seat is appropriate for your child’s size and age. Rear-facing car seats should be used from birth to age 1 at minimum. However, it’s wise to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until he/she reaches age 3 or outgrows the height and weight limit specified by the manufacturer. At this point you can transition your child to a forward-facing car seat until he/she is age 7 or again outgrows the manufacturer’s height and weight specifications. Booster seats are recommended for children age 7 and older who cannot fit in a seat belt correctly without one.
- Only buy car seats rated and recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These seats meet Federal Safety Standards as well as strict crash performance standards. You can find a list of NHTSA rated car seats, along with information on their ease of use, here.
- Make sure you install and use your car seat or booster seat properly. Seats must be carefully installed according to the owner’s manual instructions. If you need assistance, you can consult a child passenger safety technician (find one here) or visit a car seat inspection station (find one here) in your area. Local law enforcement agencies may also hold periodic car seat inspection events.
- Put your child in the middle of the vehicle. When travelling with one child or only one child in a safety seat, place it in the center of the backseat. In the event of an automobile collision, this is the safest location in the vehicle.
- Register your car seat with the NHTSA.Unfortunately, recalls happen. If you want to avoid using an unsafe car seat that has been recalled, you can register with the NHTSA to receive notices about safety-related defects and recalls.