Car seats and booster seats are excellent tools to help keep children safe in the car, as long as they are used correctly. Infants, toddlers and children should be safely restrained whenever they are in a moving vehicle.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death for children. In 2010, more than 1,200 children under age 15 died in motor vehicle crashes. Approximately 171,000 additional children were injured.
Another CDC study showed that in one year, more than 618,000 children under age 13 rode in a moving vehicle without being restrained at least part of the time.
The simple solution to reduce this risk is using age- and size-appropriate car seats and booster seats whenever children are in a vehicle. In addition to keeping children as safe as possible, making sure children are buckled in every time you travel will help them build the healthy habit of buckling up once they are old enough to do it themselves.
Check out the CDC guidelines, then make your best choice based on the height and weight of your child:
• Rear-facing car seat
Children from birth to age two are best protected in a rear-facing car seat placed in the center of the back seat. Never place this kind of seat in the front seat. Check the owner’s manual for instructions to buckle the child into the harness, and for height and weight limits.
• Forward-facing car seat
Children typically “graduate” into this kind of seat around age two, when their height and weight exceed the limits of the rear-facing seat. This seat should also be placed in the back seat. Children should be buckled in using the seat’s harness. Check the owner’s manual for height and weight limits.
• Booster seat
Most children outgrow their forward facing seat around age five, but this should be determined by the child’s height and weight, not by age. The booster seat allows the child to use the car’s standard seat belt in a safe way so the belt lands across the chest, not across the neck.
• Seat belt