Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14, and many tragedies can be prevented with appropriate foresight. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a properly fitted car seat can help to ensure the safety of a child, but about 80 percent of parents use car seats incorrectly.
When you are choosing a car seat, it’s important to take your child’s age, height, and weight into consideration, along with your vehicle model. Although there are many options available, all follow the same general guidelines from the NHTSA, as required by law.
Here’s what you need to know.
Infants and toddlers: All children who are under the age of 2 or weigh under 35 pounds should ride facing the rear in the back seat of a vehicle.
Toddlers and preschoolers: When children reach the maximum weight limit for rear-facing car seats, they are then able to ride facing forward.
Most forward-facing car seats will support children up to 80 or 90 pounds, depending on the model, and should always be placed in the back seat.
School-aged children: Belt-positioning booster seats should be used when a child exceeds the weight of their forward-facing car seat (around 90 pounds). Typically kids ages 8 to 12 will be using a booster seat.
Older children: Most children will not fit in seats with adult seat belts until they are at least 4’9″ tall and about 10 to 12 years old. Still, any child 13 or younger must ride in the back seat.
LATCH your kids in.
The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system is used to safely harness car seats in a vehicle. LATCH uses specific anchor points from the car and connectors on the car seat to ensure the safety of your child.
This system works well, but it does have a weight limit, which includes the weight of the car seat itself.
Many parents are unaware that the weight limit of LATCH isn’t just the weight of their child, and this can lead to miscalculations. Some car seats can weigh up to 20 pounds, so be sure to note the seat weight when choosing between products.
After the Purchase
Consumer research is only half the battle when picking out a car seat. Once you’ve made a decision, you have to make sure you install the seat correctly. You should also register the seat so you can stay up to date with any future product issues.
Recalls happen, of course, and registering your car seat is the best way to make sure you receive important information right away if a problem arises.
As children get older, you may have an increasingly difficult time getting them to use their seat belt. Stay strong and don’t back down in these situations. In 2015, more than 14,000 children and adult lives were saved by seat belts. Make strong rules and work early to establish good habits.