car seat Jack's soccer practice at 4:30, Cassidy's karate class at 5:15, Corinne's Girl Scout meeting at 6:00…

Oh, the life of a parent…sometimes you are not sure if you are a mom or a chauffeur. After a while, driving your kids to all their activities may start to seem like a mindless task. But it is important to stay alert. Did you know that car accidents are the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children 14 and younger?

Buckle Up for Safety

The first step you can take in protecting your children in the car is to buckle them up. Riding unrestrained or improperly restrained in a car is the single greatest risk factor for death and injury for children. And safety experts believe that anywhere from 80% to 90% of child safety seats are used incorrectly.

Tips to Keep Tots Safe

The following tips can help ensure that your child has a safe ride:

Always Use a Car Seat

When a car seat is correctly installed and used, it can reduce the risk of death for infants by 71% and for toddlers by 54%. Make sure you have the right car seat for your child's age and size. As different seats will have different height and weight recommendations, it is important to carefully read the product information provided with your car seat. States may vary in their traffic safety regulations as well, so you may want to look up the laws in your state. A certified child passenger (CPS) technician can help with your selection; visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website to search for a technician in your area.

Another point to consider is your car. Most cars made after 2002 are equipped with the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) attachment system, which offers additional protection. Check with your car dealer if you have questions.

The following list of types of car seats provides a general outline for their appropriate usage. Keep in mind that the manufacturer's guidelines for each seat can differ even within a particular category of seats:

  • Infant seat—This is a rear-facing seat designed for birth to 20-22 lbs. Infants must be rear-facing until they are at least 20 lbs and at least one year of age. It is best to keep your infant rear-facing until he or she reaches the height or weight allowed by the manufacturer.
  • Convertible seat—This seat is designed to be rear-facing for infants from birth until one year of age and 20 lbs, and forward-facing seat for bigger toddlers. A variety of harnesses are available.
  • Booster seat—The booster seat is designed for children weighing 30-100 lbs and up to eight years old, depending on the make and whether it's a high-back or no-back variety. This seat is used as a transition for children who have outgrown their convertible seat but are not ready for a seat belt.
  • Seat belt—Seat belts are designed for children weighing over 80 lbs, at least 4'9", and eight years or older. To make sure children are seated correctly, pay attention to the following 5-Step Test:
    • The child should be sitting all the way back in the car's seat.
    • The child’s knees should bend comfortably at the edge of the seat.
    • The shoulder belt should cross at the center of the child's shoulder.
    • The lap belt should fit across the child's upper thigh, not stomach.
    • The child should be able to remain seated comfortably like this for the entire trip.

Never Place Rear-Facing Infant Seats or Children Under 13 in the Front Seat

If it makes you nervous to not be able to see your baby's face, allow enough time so that you can pull off the road periodically to check on your baby, or consider purchasing a car seat mirror designed specifically to allow you to see the baby by looking in your rear-view mirror.

Always Use an Approved Car Seat

And make sure your car seat is compatible with your car.

Periodically Check for Recall Notices on Car Seats

You can check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website for recall notices.

Know When to Replace Your Baby's Car Seat

Do not use a car seat that is 10 years old or older. It is recommended that you buy a new car seat for each child. Replace any car seat that has been in a crash.

Use Caution When Taking Your Child Out of the Car Seat

Do not take your child out of the car seat while the car’s engine is running or the car is parked where it could be stuck by another vehicle. This holds true even if your child is fussing or crying.

Never Leave a Child Unattended in the Car

Even if you are running into the store for just a second, take your child with you.

Have Children Ride in the Back Seat Whenever Possible

If there is an airbag in the front, do not put a child under age 13 in the front seat. The back seat is the safest place in a crash, because children are farther away from the point of impact, which is commonly the front of the car.

Teach That Riding in a Car Is Not a Game

Make sure your children know that your attention must be on the road and not them. Bring along some soft toys to keep them occupied.

Be a Good Role Model for Your Child

Always wear your seat belt.