Motor vehicle accidents are the second leading cause of death in children across the U.S. Using appropriate child seat restraints and learning how to install their car seat correctly can help prevent them from serious injury if an accident occurs.
If you or your child are injured in a car crash, a Louisiana car crash lawyer from Dudley DeBosier can fight for your rights and help you understand your next legal steps.
Car seat safety is an important issue, with 863 children among the 26,325 passenger vehicle occupants tragically killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2021. Startlingly, 40% of these young lives were lost because they weren’t restrained, highlighting the urgency of proper car seat installation and usage.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report examined the life-saving potential of child restraints, which reduce fatalities by 71% for infants under a year old and 54% for those aged 1 to 4 in passenger cars.
Despite these statistics, 96% of child restraints in Louisiana are incorrectly installed, making them ineffective in protecting vulnerable young passengers. Proper car seat usage can make a major difference in safeguarding children when riding in a vehicle.
Louisiana prioritizes child safety with its comprehensive Child Restraint Laws. Updated on August 1, 2019, to reflect the American Academy of Pediatrics standards, these laws aim to provide optimal protection for young passengers. The legislation is tailored to the unique needs of children at various stages of development:
- Rear-facing seats (children under 2): The law mandates that children under the age of 2 must be securely fastened in rear-facing child safety seats. This position is proven to offer enhanced protection for infants and toddlers.
- Forward-facing seats (ages 2-4): Children aged 2 to 4 who have outgrown their rear-facing seats must use forward-facing seats equipped with internal harnesses. This setup ensures continued safety and comfort for growing children.
- Booster seats (ages 4-9): Booster seats are necessary for children aged 4 to 9. These seats must be secured using a lap/shoulder belt, providing appropriate restraint and support as children transition to adult seat belts.
- Seat belt transition (ages 9-12): Children aged 9 to 12 can transition from booster seats to adult seat belts when they meet certain criteria. Specifically, their knees must comfortably bend over the front seat edge, their back should rest against the seat back, and the seat belt should cross their chest without touching their neck.
Installing a car seat is non-negotiable for ensuring your child’s safety on the road. Follow these essential steps to achieve a secure installation:
- Read the manual: Read your child’s car seat and vehicle owner manuals. Understanding specific instructions and compatibility ensures you pick the right car seat for your vehicle and child’s size.
- Choose the right seat: Select a car seat suitable for your child’s age, weight, and height. Ensure it meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213 and has a 5-point safety harness. For infants and toddlers, use a rear-facing seat in the back seat.
- Secure tightly: Attach the seat using either the LATCH system or the seat belt. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper attachment, which typically requires attaching the seat’s tether anchors to your car’s anchor bars between the rear seat cushions.
- Recline angle: Ensure the car seat’s recline angle is appropriate for your child’s age and size. Many seats have adjustable recline options. This angle varies based on the seat design and manufacturer, so refer to their guidelines for accurate information.
- Harness adjustment: Lengthen or shorten the harness straps to fit snugly on your child. The straps on rear-facing seats should sit at or below the shoulders, and on forward-facing seats, should be at or above shoulder level.
- Chest clip and buckle: Fasten the chest clip at armpit level and ensure the buckle is securely latched.
- Tether (forward-facing): If using a forward-facing seat, attach the tether strap to the designated anchor point to prevent excessive head movement in a crash. The anchor is typically located on the seatback or rear shelf area.
- Shake test: After installation, give the car seat a firm shake. It should not move more than an inch in any direction.
- Get checked: Visit a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician for a thorough inspection. They can offer guidance and ensure your installation meets safety standards. In Louisiana, over 600 nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians are available at Child Passenger Safety Fitting Stations found statewide.
- Regular checks: Inspect and adjust the car seat as your child grows. Ensure the seat remains appropriately secured and the harness fits correctly.
- Replace after accidents: Replace a car seat after a moderate to severe accident, even if no visible damage is present. The seat’s integrity may be compromised, making it ineffective at protecting your child’s well-being.
Buckling your child into their car seat is an essential safety step. Adjust the harness straps to fit tightly over their hips and shoulders. The chest clip should reach the armpit level, securing the straps in place.
Ensure there’s no extra slack in the harness. Buckle the harness buckle and fasten the chest clip, ensuring it’s centered over the chest. Check that the harness isn’t twisted.
To test for proper snugness, try pinching the harness strap near the child’s shoulder; if you can’t pinch any excess, it’s appropriately tight. A secure and snug harness reduces the risk of injury in an accident.
Accidents can still happen despite your precautions. If you and your child are in a car accident, consulting an attorney is essential for helping your family receive compensation for your child’s injuries.
Car accidents can result in medical expenses and emotional distress, particularly when children are involved. Calling an attorney can help you navigate the complex legal procedures and negotiations with insurance companies to secure compensation you’re your family’s medical bills and pain and suffering.
An experienced attorney from Dudley DeBosier understands the intricacies of car accident claims and can work to safeguard the rights and well-being of your child. Contact us today for a free consultation.
This content has been reviewed by Chad Lederman, Director of Legal Operations at our New Orleans office.
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