Every year, thousands of young children and infants are killed or injured in car accidents. Parents need to familiarize themselves with car seat safety and proper installation as it can help keep your children safe. However, with so many different car seats out on the market today, some parents find that choosing the right one can be a little overwhelming.
The right seat for your child depends on several different factors, including the age of your child, how much they weigh, how tall they are, and what kind of vehicle you have. The following paragraphs contain information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on how to choose the right car seat for your child.
Different Types of Car Seats
Rear Facing: Infants and toddlers should be in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years old, or they reach the weight and height requirements allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
Front Facing: Toddlers and pre-school age children who have outgrown the rear-facing seat or passed the weight and height limit should switch to a forward-facing seat with a harness. They should stay in this seat until height and weight goals are surpassed.
Booster Seats: If the child is above the height and weight limit for a forward facing seat, it is time for a belt-positioning booster seat. Once the vehicle’s seat belt fits the child properly, usually when they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall and are 8-12 years of age, they can eliminate the seat and sit in the car as the adults do.
Seat Belts: When the child is old enough and big enough to transition to the vehicle seat, they should always use lap and/or shoulder seat bets for the best protection. Children younger than 13 years old should always be in the back seat.
Car seats can be installed one of two ways: the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system or the vehicle’s seat belt.
LATCH is a car seat attachment system. Lower anchors are used instead of the seat belt to install the seat, and some parents have found this system easier to use in some vehicles. The top tether provides improved safety for the seat and is very important in the use of forward-facing seats. All lower anchor systems are rated for the maximum weight of 65 pounds (total weight of the seat and the child). Parents should always check the manufacturer’s recommendation for the maximum weight limit. Newer car seats have the maximum weight limit printed on the label on the seat.
LATCH systems on vehicles have lower anchors located in the back seat. The tether anchors are located behind the seat, either on the panel behind the seat (sedans), the back of the seat, the ceiling, or the floor (as in most hatchbacks and SUV’s). Every car seat will have attachments that fasten to the anchors. Most all passenger vehicles and all car seats made after September 1, 2002, are equipped to use LATCH.
If you use the vehicle’s seat belts to install the car seat, you need to refer to the owner’s manual to see if a locking clip is required to keep the belts locked into position. Locking clips are not necessary in newer vehicles, but you will probably have to fully extend the seat belts and then allow it to retract in order to keep the seat belt tight around the car seat. Several car seats have built-in lock-offs to lock the seat belt.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that you do not use a car seat that has been in a car crash. NHTSA and car seat manufacturers recommend that car seats be replaced after a crash, even if was only a minor accident. For more information you can go to the NHTSA website.
St. Louis Personal Injury Attorney
If you or your child has been injured in a car accident, you need to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.