Promoting Car Seat Safety in the United States
In 2015, over 660 kids under the age of 12 were killed in auto accidents across the country. In 2014, more than 120,000 kids in that age range suffered some type of injury in a crash with another car, bus, or truck. One of the easiest ways to lower these numbers is to ensure kids use safe car seats while motor vehicles are in operation. This burden falls on the shoulders of parents, guardians, babysitters, and caregivers.Car Seats Are Designed to Save Lives
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car seats can reduce the fatality risk of infants by over 71% and toddlers by 54%. Not all car seats are made equal. There are different types, and proper use will depend on factors such as age, height, and weight. As such, car seat manufacturers must follow federal guidelines concerning the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of car seats. For example, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) constantly review products and issue safety recalls when necessary.
Rear-facing car seats should be used for infants and toddlers, normally from birth until 2 years of age. Children that utilize these car seats will typically weigh up to 22-30 pounds. This car seat should be placed in the back seat. Placing a car seat in the front of a vehicle can subject the child to unnecessary exposure to airbags.
For toddlers and preschool kids between the ages of 2-5, a forward-facing car seat can be used. Similar to rear-facing car seats, these should also be placed in the back seat. While 5 year old children can typically transition into a booster seat, some children of that age will need to remain in the car seat if they fall within manufacturer guidelines regarding height and weight.
Car Seat Safety Tips
Parents can take many steps when it comes to car seat safety.
- Proper usage – according to Safe Kids Worldwide, nearly 73% of car seats are used or installed incorrectly, which can limit the car seat’s effectiveness. Look at the product specifications to make sure that product is right for your child, and refer to the owner’s manual when installing it in the car. Here is a checklist for proper installation of a car seat.
- Make sure all harnesses are buckled tight so the car seat will not move around when the car is in use.
- Utilize car seats at all times, even for short trips.
- Replace a car seat that has been damaged or involved in an accident. The NHTSA recommends replacing a car seat after a “moderate or severe crash,” although many child safety experts recommend replacing it after any type of car accident.
- Look for the expiration date. Most car seat manufacturers will include an expiration date on the product itself. Depending on the car seat and the manufacturer, the lifespan can range anywhere from 6-10 years.
- If you are buying a used car seat, know the entire history of the car seat and ask if it was ever involved in a car crash.
- Check for recalls. Current recalls can be found on the NHTSA’s website by clicking here.