More than 50% of children who die from motor vehicular accidents were either not in a car seat, or were sitting in one that was not properly attached or appropriate for his age.
These figures—from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—are a serious reminder to invest in a good car seat. Get the best you can afford, and most importantly, take time to install it properly. Here are some things you need to know.
1. Location of car seats
As a general rule, the safest place for your child is in the back seat. Some car models have special requirements for the type of seat, and where it can be strapped. Read your car manual and then remember the measurements (along with your child’s age and height) when you shop for a car seat.
2. Car seats for babies under 1 year
a. All infants should ride facing the rear until they hit one year of age or until they reach 20 lbs or about 9kgs
b. Never seat your baby in the front seat with airbags as these can cause your child to suffocate if the airbag is triggered to open upon impact
c. Your baby should ideally be laying down in a 45-degree angle in a car seat, or as specified by the car seat manufacturer. This is so in order to prevent your child’s head from dropping forward and cutting off the airway during impact.
3. Car seats for toddlers (children over 1 year old)
a. If your toddler is a year old or at least 20 lbs., he can be placed in a forward facing car seat.
b. Look for a car seat with a five-point harness has the following attachments: two at the shoulders, two at the hips, and one at the crotch.
c. A T-shield is often attached to the shoulder strap to protect the chest.
d. Other features to look for: harness slots to allow room for your child’s growth, adjustable buckles and shields, and angle indicators to help give you the proper recline
4. Car seats for children over 40 pounds
You can tell your baby is ready to move up to a booster seat when the ears reach the top edge of the car seat. This is usually around after he hits 40 pounds or more. A booster seat will give your baby some extra height, so that the seatbelt and lap belt can now have a snug fit. It is important that you teach your child how to use the seat belt and lap belt by reminding him each time that:
a. the seat belt should cross midway through over the shoulder and not under the armpit
b. the lap belt should cross the upper hips and not the waist
Of course, nothing will convince your child about the importance of car safety more than through your own example. Demonstrate the proper use of the seatbelts yourself and then make sure you show your child that you wear your seat belts too. After all, you should be vigilant in keeping everyone in your family safe—both children and adults alike. Grown-ups aren’t exempt from the disastrous injuries a high velocity crash can cause. So, buckle up! Your baby will thank you for it.