Overview

Are your miniatures safe while in the car? Do you ensure child safety measures by properly buckling them into their car seats before every trip? Don’t wrinkle your brow. I’m not here to question whether you care about your children’s safety on every trip. That’s what the data shows. According to the National Safety Council survey, only one in every five parents checks to see if their child’s car seat is properly installed.

Do you have any idea? Due to improper car seat use, car accidents are the leading cause of death in children under the age of 14, says NHTSA. Around 731 children under 14 years died in 2019 in car crashes. Among them, around 266 were unrestrained. More than 183,000 children were injured, and around 3,500 survived because of seat belts and car seat usage. Among those who died, forty percent of the children were unrestrained and traveling with unrestrained drivers.

The CDC has found out that more than 600,000 children below 12 years travel at least once without a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt every year. I hope that these chilling statistics raise awareness among parents about the safety of their children while traveling. Let’s take a closer look at the deadly consequences of traveling with unrestrained children, as well as the tips and guidelines for child safety in cars.

Child Restraint Laws

Every state in the United States has its own child restraint law, with minor variations. In general, children under the age of four must ride in a rear-facing car seat that is buckled to the rear passenger seat. Children between the ages of 4 – 7 must be restrained in a forward-facing car seat. Children under the age of 12 must be restrained in a booster seat. Children over the age of 12 must be restrained in the back passenger seat using a shoulder-lap seat belt. These will vary depending on their weight and height. Please see the IIHS website for more information on child restraint laws in various states.

Children under the age of 16 must ride in the backseats in California. Children under the age of two, with a height lesser than 40 inches and a weight lesser than 40 pounds, should be restrained in a rear-facing infant seat. Children aged 7 and under who are shorter than 57 inches must use a forward-facing child passenger restraint system.

Los Angeles car restraint laws effectuate that the kids younger than 2 years and until reaching the manufacturer’s standard weight or height limit must be in a rear-facing system; kids at least 2 to 3 years and until reaching the set rules of the manufacturer’s weight or height limit must be in a forward-facing restraint; kids at least 4 to 8 years or until reaching the manufacturer’s weight or height limit must be in a booster seat. The kids from 9 to 17 years or those who have outgrown the height or weight limits of the child booster seat as set by the manufacturer can use adult lap and shoulder seat belts.

In Delaware, in the absence of rear seats or if other younger kids accommodate the rear seats, the children can be restrained in the front seats. However, the airbags should be deactivated, or it should be the one designed to accommodate small kids.

The North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Law requires children under the age of 16 to be properly restrained in a car seat that is appropriate for their age, weight, and height. The North Carolina Seat Belt Law applies to passengers aged 16 and up.

Thanks to the efforts and laws of the government and its entities, more parents are concerned about keeping their children restrained during rides. Even then, there are children over the age of four who ride unrestrained. This fact demonstrates the importance of raising awareness among parents and caregivers. Only if the child restraint laws or booster seat laws achieve their goal, the child fatality rate can be restrained.

Guidelines for Child Passenger Safety

The NHTSA has established rules and regulations to reduce the child fatality rate in vehicle crashes. In collaboration with the Ad Council, the NHTSA has launched public service ads instructing parents and caregivers to place their children in appropriate car seats based on their child’s age, height, and weight. Children under the age of 13 should not be permitted to ride in the front seat. Depending on their age, weight, and height, they should be restrained in the rear passenger seats in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts.

The majority of parents keep their children in car seats or booster seats. However, whether or not the children are placed in the proper sized car seats or if the car seats are properly installed makes the child safety a big question mark. Poor car seat installation, failure to tighten straps and tethers, and carelessness or lack of awareness about the proper size of the car seat all contribute to the child fatality rate indirectly.

Since the airbags can fatally injure the kids in the front seats, it is safe to keep them in the rear seats. Especially when rear-facing car seats are kept in the front passenger seat, during impacts, the airbag inflation may create the worst impact like head trauma on the child’s head.

Finding the Correct Car Seat for Child Safety

Different types of car seats for children are available in the market to warrant child safety. The base of the rear-facing car seats can be attached to the rear passenger seat. It will have a seat that can be clicked in place or removed as per need. For infants and toddlers, this will be comfortable until they reach the age limit set by the car seat manufacturer or 40 to 50 pounds of weight. During car accidents, the cradle-like seat sways with your baby and reduces the force of the impact on the baby’s neck and spine.

The convertible seats can be used for a long time as they can be converted to a forward-facing seat for the kids when they outgrow the rear-facing age and weight limit. They are permanently fixed to the car and have 5-point straps that join at the shoulders, hips, and between the legs.

The all-in-one car seats can be used longer than the convertible ones as they can be used as rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster car seats when the kids outgrow the size limits set by the manufacturer. They come with harnesses and tethers.

Car seat recommendations for child safety:

  • Infants under the age of one year should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children aged one to three years should also ride in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the height and weight limits. You can use a forward-facing car seat if they outgrow it.
  • Children aged 4 to 7 must be restrained with a harness and tether in a forward-facing car seat until they reach the manufacturer’s age and weight limit.
  • Children aged 8 to 12 should use a booster seat to ensure a proper fit of the seat belt. The booster seat will assist in adjusting the height of the children in order to secure the seat belt. The shoulder belt should be worn across the chest, not across the stomach. The lap belt ensures that your child is securely fastened to the seat.
  • When children aged 8 to 2 years outgrow the booster seat limit, they can sit in the rear passenger seat with the shoulder-lap seat belt properly buckled.

Check NHTSA’s car seat recommendations for more information.

Proper Installation

Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPST) will help the parents to install the car seats properly to the rear passenger seats. If you are installing them, make sure to read the instruction manual from the manufacturer beforehand. The car seats should be fixed at the correct angle advised. All the rear-facing seats will have recline angle indicators to guarantee child safety.

When using a convertible or all-in-one seat in the rear-facing position, ensure that the seat belt or lower anchor loop is passed through the correct belt path. To be sure, read the instructions that came with the car safety seat.

Ensure the Child Safety

Purchasing and properly installing a good car seat will not ensure your children’s safety. To ensure the child’s safety in the car, make sure the seat belts are properly fastened every time you take them for a ride. Seat belts that are too loosely buckled cannot provide complete protection for your children. A double-check would be to have your child’s car seat checked at regular intervals by a Child Passenger Safety Technician. Registering the car seat with the manufacturer will ensure that you receive important safety information or recall notices on time. Registering with the NHTSA will also provide you with this information via e-mail.

Final Thoughts

The week of September 18-24, 2022, is designated as Child Passenger Safety Week. September 24, 2022, is National Seat Check Saturday. CPST personnel will provide free awareness classes during Child Passenger Safety Week to educate parents and caregivers on how to choose, install, and use car seats, booster seats, and seat belts.

Check your child’s car seat before each trip to ensure child safety in the car. Furthermore, we must protect our children from dying of heatstroke in the car. Never leave your children locked inside a car, being careless. To keep your children safe, follow the NHTSA’s “Park, Look, Lock” campaign. At the very least, we should be aware enough this year to avoid child fatalities by implementing the NHTSA-recommended safety measures.