Take Time To Check That Child Safety Seat

Child passenger safety takes center stage in September with National Child Safety Week, an annual reminder for parents on ways to help prevent injuries.

There’s more nuance than simply buying a car seat and strapping a child in. Whether you’re taking them to school or they’re tagging along for errands, keeping a child safe inside a vehicle is one of the most basic, yet most complex, responsibilities parents face.

“No one seat is the best, or the safest,” said pediatrician Ben Hoffman, an expert on child safety. “The best seat is the one that fits your child’s size, fits well in your vehicle and can be used properly every time you drive.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal agency sponsoring the National Child Safety Week, car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13 years old. Deaths and injuries can be prevented by proper use of car seats, boosters, and seat belts.

The NHTSA estimates properly installed car seats saved the lives of more than 300 children younger than the age of 5 in 2017.

The California Office of Traffic Safety places child restraints in one of four categories based on what they do and who should use them.

Stage 1: Rear-facing seats. For newborns and infants, these car seats should tilt the child’s head to a 45-degree angle for comfort and safety. Keep the harness tight so a sudden stop or crash doesn’t jostle them too much. Don’t rush to graduate your child from the rear-facing seat until they outgrow it. A loose-fitting restraint provides minimal benefit.

Stage 2: Forward-facing seats: Now they are watching you and the world around by facing the same direction as the driver. Harness straps narrower than a standard seat belt better support a childlike frame. Use the seat until your child grows out of the suggested range for weight and height.

Stage 3: Booster seat: This is for children who have outgrown a forward-facing seat but aren’t quite ready for just a seatbelt. The booster seat raises your young one up so the shoulder strap and lap belt properly support them.

Stage 4: Factory vehicle seat belt: They are tall enough to use the shoulder strap and lap belt properly without a booster seat. They’re a passenger buckled up like everyone else. Stress to them the importance of always wearing a seat belt. It’s good life advice and it should push away thoughts about them being able to drive themselves someday.