Car accidents are the leading cause of death of children under the age of twelve. Studies show that over half a million children under the age of twelve ride in cars without being properly secured in an age-appropriate car seat. When properly using car seats, the risk of death is reduced by 71% and booster seats for children who fall in the correct age and weight class reduce the risk of serious injury by 45% when combined with proper seat belt use.
Car seat safety has been a hot topic among parents this past year. Every parent wants to make sure their children are as safe as possible while traveling in an automobile, but it can be difficult being that the right actions are being taken. Here are a few tips to follow to help keep your children safe in the event of a car accident.
- Always buy car seats that fit your child – it is important to buy car seats according to your child’s age and size, and you should update the car seat as your child grows. A good guide based on your child’s age can be found here.
- Do not go for the least expensive car seat – although children often will quickly outgrow their seats, it is important to spend a little extra on seats manufactured by reputable brands that contain important safety features. The hard truth is that the more you pay, the more safety features you will get. Features such as five-point safety harness with superior adjustability, additional padding, and a side-impact protection to protect your child’s head and chest in a side-impact collision are things worth spending extra on.
- Keep your child in the car seat as long as possible – studies show that the longer an infant rides in a rear-facing seat, the safer they are. In fact, it is now encouraged that children ride in a rear-facing car seat until the age of two. Keep your child in each car seat for as long as he or she fits in the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements to maximize safety.
- Install the car seat correctly using the LATCH (Lower anchors and tethers for children) car seat tether – since 2002, it has been mandated for all cars to be manufactured with a LATCH car seat tether which anchors the car seat to the bottom of the seat instead of using a seatbelt as a tether. Make sure you read all installation instructions and take every precaution described, and have your installation checked by a professional from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- Do not attach toys to car seats— While attaching a mirror and toys to your child’s car seat may keep them entertained and happy during a car ride, it is a potential hazard to your child. In the event of an accident, these toys could become projectiles that could cause severe injuries.
- Do not buy a used car seat – while it may be tempting to buy a reputable brand’s car seat for less by buying it used, this could put your child at risk for injury. Even though it may not have obvious damage, these car seats could have been compromised in a previous accident or may not be up to current safety standards.
- Always keep up with recalls and new safety standards – this may be the most important tip in the list. Every now and then a car seat or booster seat will be recalled by its manufacturer. It is important to be in the know. You can always check recalls online, but it is also recommended to register your child’s car seat with the manufacturer and subscribe to email notifications in the event of a recall.
Although it may seem overwhelming finding the right car seat for your child, being proactive in your search can be invaluable to his or her safety. With the right car seat, you can drive with a peace of mind knowing that your child is secure. Here are a few free resources to help find the perfect seat:
CarseatBlog: Written by a team of child passenger safety technicians, this long-running blog offers insightful and thorough reviews of current car seats.
Safe Ride 4 Kids: Safe Ride 4 Kids is an organization founded by a former firefighter and paramedic with years of experience witnessing the damage car crashes can cause firsthand. The blog offers a wealth of helpful advice, relevant to car seats as well as driving safety for pregnant women.
The Car Seat Lady: This website offers excellent tips, buyer’s guides, and infographics to help you navigate through finding the right seat.