Child And Baby Car Seats
Every great parent wants to keep their children safe and it is important that we do everything possible to do so. Although car manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that vehicles are safe and secure, accidents can, and do, happen. In fact, the CDC indicates, that in 2016, 723 children under 12 died in car accidents, and 128,000 were injured. These statistics are staggering, especially when you consider that most of these deaths and injuries may have been entirely preventable. Of the children under 12 who died in accidents 35% were not using a seat belt. In addition, over 600,000 children younger than 12 did not ride in child or baby car seats.
There is, however, good news. The CDC also states that the proper use of child and baby car seats can reduce the risk of injury or death by up to 80%. Furthermore, booster seats reduce the risk of serious injury in children between 4 and 8 by 45% over seat belts alone. Finally, for older children, using a seat belt reduces the risk of injury or death by half.
The statistics are clear. Child and baby car seats are an indispensable investment for every parent who wants to keep their child safe.
Know Your Car Know You Child Or Baby Car Seat
The first step you should take in keeping your baby or child safe is knowing your car and knowing your car seat. You can secure your child or baby car seats in the vehicle using a couple of different methods. How you will do so will depend on the car’s equipment.
Since September 1, 2002, all new cars have to have the LATCH system. LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. If your car was manufactured before this date, or, if your car does not have the LATCH system, you can still secure your child or baby car seat with the seat belt.
Lower Anchors And Tethers For Children
Lower anchors are bars at the base of your car’s seats. You might not always be able to see them, as the seats may obscure them. Thus, be sure to read and understand your car’s instruction manual so you can find the lower anchors. The lower anchors allow you to secure the seat without using the seat belt.
Tether anchors are the parts on the interior of the car where you child or baby car seats tethers are anchored or fastened to. Where the tether anchors are will depend on the kind of vehicle you have. So again, be sure to read your car’s owner’s manual to determine where these are located and how to use them properly.
You should familiarize yourself with the weight limits of each of these, as indicated by the manufacturer. You can usually use lower anchors to fasten the car seat if the combined weight of your child and the car seat are no more than 65 pounds. Also, if the weight exceeds 65 pounds, you will need to use a seat belt to secure the child or baby car seat.
If you have questions about safe car seat installation, you can also contact a certified technician to assist. Here is an excellent video on how to secure child or baby car seats using the LATCH system:
How Do I Know Which Child Or Baby Car Seats To Use?
The car set solution you use will depend on the age, height and weight of your child. Here are some general guidelines:
- From birth until up to about age 4 you can use rear-facing baby car seats. However, maximum ages, heights and weights may differ. Therefore, be sure to read your car seat’s user manual. You place these rear-facing seats in the back of your car with baby facing towards the seat. Never place rear-facing seats toward the front, or place them in the front seat.
- After you child outgrows the rear-facing baby car seat, he or she is ready for a front-facing seat. Always check the height and weight specifications of your car seat to know when to make this change.
- Use a booster seat when your child outgrows the front-facing seat and before your child fits in a seat belt. Usually, a seat belt is appropriate for children between the ages of 9 and 12, or when your child is over 4’9″ tall.
- Even after your child has outgrown baby car seats and booster seats, he or she should still ride in the back seat of the car until age 13.
- Keep reading for more information on when to make the switch between different types of car seats.
Forward vs. Rear-Facing Baby Seats
Always remember to keep your child in a rear-facing baby car seat for as long as possible. Rear-facing baby seats remain the best way to keep your child safe while in the car. To know when you should switch to a forward-facing seat, you should read your car seat’s owner’s manual carefully. The manual will tell you the maximum height and weight limits for a rear-facing seat. In general, the switch from rear-facing to forward facing happens at about 3 or 4 years.
At around that age, you can switch from rear-facing to a forward-facing baby car seat. Also, some baby car seats are convertible, which means that you can switch the seat from rear facing to forward facing.
The Britax Boulevard ClickTight is an example of a convertible baby car seat. You can use it rear-facing when your child weighs between 5-40 pounds and forward-facing when your child weighs 20-65 pounds. Your child’s standing height should be 49” or less for this car seat.
Once you child has outgrown both rear-facing and front-facing baby car seats, it’s time for a booster seat. Most children will not be big enough for a seat belt to fit securely until they are around 10-12 years old. Hence, a booster seat is necessary to secure children in the car who have grown too big for baby car seats, but who are not yet large enough to wear a seat belt. In all cases, make sure you check the laws of your state before transitioning your child to a booster seat.
There are different types of booster seats. The one you choose will depend on the type of seats you have in your car. There are two basic types of booster seats:
- High-back booster seats: As the name implies, these booster seats not only lift the child so that the seat belt fits correctly. They also have a high back, so they will support your child’s back and neck for greater comfort.
- Backless booster seats: Backless booster seats simply lift your child up higher so that the seat belts fit properly.
How To Secure A Booster Seat In Your Car
Remember that you will secure most child booster seats with a regular seat belt, and not with the LATCH system, unless you buy a convertible model that you can change from a baby car seat to a booster seat.
As with other car seats, you should install booster seats in the back seat of your car. This way, there will be no danger of suffocation should the airbags deploy. If you choose a booster seat with a backrest, the backrest should sit tight against the back seat of your vehicle.
Securing Your Child In The Booster Seat
To secure your child in the seat, always use both the seat and the shoulder belt. When you secure your child in the booster seat, make sure the seat belt fits securely over your child’s lap. In addition, the shoulder belt should not obstruct your child’s neck. You should position the seat belt securely over the middle of your child’s shoulder. Your child will be more comfortable this way, and will be less likely to maneuver themselves out of the belt. And, of course, this will be the most secure position in the event of an accident.
If the booster seat does not have a backrest, the seat of your car should reach up at least as far as your child’s ears. This will ensure that your child’s head is protected in the event of an accident. When in doubt, always refer to your car seat’s manual, and your car’s owner’s manual.
The Chicco MyFit Harness and Booster Seat is an example of a booster seat that you can convert from a baby car seat with a 5-point harness system for younger children to a booster seat as your child grows. Use the harness mode for children who weigh between 25-65 pounds and who are up to 54″ tall. Convert to a booster seat for children ages 4 and up and who weight 40-100 pounds. Children should be between 38-57″ tall for the booster seat mode.
Get The Right Child And Baby Car Seats
Use this CDC guide to ensure you provide the right car seat for your child. Click the image to enlarge.