Car Seat Safety: Everything to Know

car safety seats

Car seat safety should be a priority for anyone who ever drives with a child in the car, whether it’s your own child, your grandchild, or a child you’re caring for. 

Car accidents are a leading cause of death for children 13 and under, and for younger children, the type of car seat used and how it’s installed can mean the difference between surviving a car accident or not. 

A few things to know about children, car accidents and car safety seats:

  • In 2014, 26% of children eight and under who died in car accidents weren’t restrained by a car seat, booster seat or seat belt
  • Car seats reduce the risk of a deadly injury 71% for infants under one year old and 54% for toddlers who are one to four years old
  • Children between four and eight are 45% less likely to be injured if they’re in a booster seat as opposed to a seatbelt

Unfortunately, there is often confusion about the type of car seat to buy and how to put it in and make sure a child is secured in it properly. 

The following are some key things to know about car seat and booster seat safety for children.

Types of Seats By Age Group

For infants and toddlers, only a rear-facing seat is recommended. For toddlers and preschoolers who outgrow the rear-facing weight for a convertible seat or the height limit, they may be moved to a forward-facing seat, but it needs a harness. 

Most seats that are forward-facing with a harness will accommodate kids who are 65 pounds or more, so this type of seat can be used for quite some time. 

School-aged children whose height or weight goes beyond the maximum limit for their forward-facing seat should move into a booster seat. Usually, a child should be in a booster with an appropriately-fitting seatbelt until they are around 4 feet 9 inches, and they are between the ages of 8 and 12. Any child who is younger than 13 should be seated in the back of a vehicle.

Choosing a Seat

You shouldn’t buy a car seat secondhand because safety regulations and features can change quickly, and you want to ensure you have the most up-to-date seat available that meets all standards. 

When you buy a secondhand car seat, it may not only have updated safety features, but it could have damage in places you can’t see that will impact how effective it is. 

You shouldn’t use a seat with missing parts or a seat that doesn’t have a listed model number and manufacture date. 

Car seat recalls also happen fairly often, so if you have a seat you aren’t sure about, you can research and determine if there’s ever been a recall. 

If you buy a new car seat, you should fill out the product registration card that comes with it so that you’ll know about recalls as soon as they might occur. 

A seat should meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213, and that will be highlighted on the label of the seat so you’ll know. 

Installing a Seat

Even if you buy the best and most modern car seat available, if you install it incorrectly, it’s going to be ineffective.

First, car seats should always be placed in the backseat. If a child’s safety seat is in a front seat and the airbag inflates, it can cause head injuries to the child. If you have a truck or a vehicle that only has one row of seats, you should deactivate the airbag where the safety seat will be. 

When installing a safety seat in the backseat, it should go in the center seat instead of being next to a door. 

The seat’s instruction manual should be carefully followed when installing the seat. If you’re unsure, there are groups and organizations in many towns and cities that can help you with proper installation.

Once your child is actually in a seat, he or she needs to have harness slots that are at or below their shoulders. 

The chest clip should be even with the child’s armpits who’s in the seat, and both the straps and clip should be flat against the child’s chest and hips without slack. 

Car seat safety is incredibly important, and if you’re going to be driving a child, it’s worth going over the basics to ensure you choose the right seat, put it in correctly, and that the child is properly secured.