Car Seat Basics

Car accidents are the number one cause of death and serious injury to children in the United States.  There are many things that parents and caregivers can do to reduce the risk:

1. Buckle up. – Every rider on every ride must be restrained.  An unrestrained passenger is a danger to all other passengers in the event of an accident.  An unrestrained passenger can hit your properly restrained child and injure or kill them.  Children also learn by example and are much more likely to not fight the car seat if they see Mom and Dad wearing their seat belts.

2. Use a child restraint that is appropriate for your child’s age and development level. –  Rear facing is the safest way to travel.  It protects the neck and spinal cord.  Since babies and children have large heads and bones that are not fully developed they are at risk of neck and spinal cord injuries in an impact.  To best protect your child they should ride rear facing for as long as possible.

3. Install your child’s restraint properly. Most child restraints are installed or used improperly.  Consult the manual that came with your child’s seat.  Many seats have different rules, limits, and requirements.  Using a child restraint in a way that is contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions can cause your child to be injured in the event of a crash.

4. Never place a child restraint in front of an active airbag. Air bags are life saving safety devices for adults.  An air bag can cause serious injury or even death if it hits a child.  Never place a rear facing child restraint in front of an active air bag.  The air bag hitting the child restraint could kill your child.

5. Have your child’s seat checked by a CPST. Child Passenger Safety Technicians are trained to educate parents in the proper installation and use of child restraints.  Have your child’s car seat checked to make sure they are as safe as possible.

6. Don’t rush to the next step. Each time your child moves up to the next stage in child restraints they become less safe.  Do not be in a hurry to “graduate” your child to forward facing or in to a booster seat.  Keep your school age children in a booster seat for as long as possible.

7. Do not rely on laws to keep your child safe. The laws are minimums, they do not reflect what is safest.  Do not make decisions for your child’s safety based on the laws.