The desire to hold and protect our children is a natural one. Where else but in our arms are our children most safe? In an automobile this does not hold true. The fact is, each year nearly 50,000 people die in automobile accidents that are caused by unpredictable factors: alcohol, mechanical failure and carelessness. Even if you’re traveling at 30 miles per hour, an impact can rip a child from your arms with a force comparable to falling from a three-story building. Using the proper car seat for your child and making sure it is properly installed will greatly reduce the risk of injury and death in a car accident.
Tips For Safe Travel
- When purchasing a car seat, always buy a new one. If you must buy or borrow a used one, make sure it is less than 6 years old, has NOT been involved in a crash, and is free of recalls.
- Never put infants in a front seat with passenger-side air bags. If your car has dual airbags and no back seat, your infant should not ride in that vehicle.
- Read and follow all of the car seat and car manufacturer’s instructions when installing a car seat.
- Children under 1 year of age AND under 20 pounds should be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat, positioned at about a 45 degree angle and with a 5 point harness. (Some car seats accommodate up to 30 pounds rear-facing- check your manual and remember-REAR-FACING for as long as your seat will allow!)
- Children over 1 year old AND over 20 pounds can be moved to a forward facing position in a standard child safety seat, with a 5 point harness. It’s safest to have your child sit in the back seat of the car. However, if the child must ride in the front seat, make sure the seat is pushed as far back as possible and there is no passenger airbag (or passenger airbag is turned off).
Children who are 40 inches tall and weigh over 40 pounds can sit in a car booster seat. Again, if the child must ride in the front seat, make sure the seat is pushed as far back as possible and there is no passenger airbag (or airbag is turned off).
- It is safest if children under 12 years of age do not ride in the front seat of cars with passenger side airbags.
- Only use padding or other additional materials if they came with the car seat. Other extra items that are sold in retail stores (called after market products) may not be flame retardant and may interfere with the seat’s protection.
The Back Seat is Best
Whichever type of car seat you’re using, the rear center seat is always the safest. And even when children can fit comfortably and correctly into the car’s combination lap and shoulder belts, they should still ride in the back seat. The lap belt should stay low and tight on the hips and should not ride up over the stomache. The shoulder belt should fit across the shoulder and chest, not across the front of the face or neck.
Helpful websites to help parents with recalls and safety checks: