We all want to keep our children safe anywhere they go, and the car is no exception. Many of us know that a car seat is a necessary piece of equipment when driving your child somewhere, but it can be difficult to know exactly which car seat is the right one.
There are factors to consider such as whether you should get a rear-facing seat or a forward-facing seat; if you need a booster seat or if your child is old enough to forgo a car seat at all and can simply use a seatbelt. Thankfully, we can offer some tips and advice gathered from experts so that you can avoid your child sustaining severe injuries should you ever end up in a car accident.
What are the different types of car seats?
There is not a “one size fits all” when it comes to car seats. There are four different types of car seats for infants, toddlers, and older children. Within these four categories, there are individual types to choose from as well, including all-in-one seats, convertible, and combination seats. It’s easy to see how this can become very confusing.
The four different types of car seats are:
- Rear-Facing Car Seat. Best for children aged 0 to 2-4 (depending on the height and weight of your child). This is the best for small children as it has a harness that keeps your child in place, and the rear-facing seat cradles your child’s head if you should end up in a crash. This reduces how much stress is put on your child’s neck and spinal cord.
- Forward-Facing Car Seat. When your child outgrows their rear-facing car seat, you can move them to a forward-facing seat. It should still have a harness. The best age range is about 2-7 years old.
- Booster Seat. This is used after your child has outgrown the forward-facing car seat. These are used so that the seatbelt of the car can fit your child properly. This is good for children ages 7-12 years old, and should be used until your child can be appropriately belted without the booster.
- Seat Belt. When the lap belt of a seatbelt is across the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt is across the center of the shoulder and chest, your child is ready for a normal car seat. If the lap belt is across the stomach, or the shoulder belt is off the shoulder or on the face and neck, then your child is not ready to leave their booster seat.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advises that a child should sit in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
How do I properly install my child’s car seat?
It is very important for the safety of your child that you read the manual that comes with the car seat, so that you know how to install it correctly. There are common mistakes parents make when putting in a car seat, including:
- The harness being too loose. When the harness is too loose around your child, this means that they are not properly secured, and if they are in a forward-facing seat, they may be launched forward out of their seat during a car crash. This often sees the child’s face colliding with the back of the front seats, bouncing against the interior of the car, or even launching from the vehicle itself through the front windshield.
- The car seat being too loose in the car. When the seat itself proves to be too loose, during a crash, it is likely to be launched forward. This can cause the child to injure their face, head, and neck when the car seat collides with the back of the front seats.
- The rear-facing car seat being at an improper angle. An infant’s head is heavy, and their neck muscles are not developed enough to hold it up. If the car seat is angled too far forward, the child’s head may tip forward, cutting off their airway, making it difficult to breathe.
- Putting your infant in a forward-facing car seat too soon. The website Parents explains this well, saying, “the bones that protect an infant’s spinal cord are still forming. When a child is rear-facing, his back — the strongest part of his body — can better absorb the immense forces of a crash. Facing forward, an infant’s relatively heavy head can catapult forward, causing his underdeveloped spine to expose his spinal cord and putting him at risk of paralysis or death.”
- The harness chest clip being in the wrong spot. If the chest clip is not placed in the center of your child’s chest, and it slides lower, your child could slip free from the harness and be ejected from their seat in the event of a crash.
- Using the car seat outside of a car. Many of us may think that since car seats are safe to use in a car, why wouldn’t they be just as safe (if not safer) outside of one? According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, 62.9% of infant deaths occurring in sitting devices were caused by parents using their car seats as normal seats, and less than 10% were using the seats correctly.
As we can see, using a car seat, and using it correctly, is critical to the safety of your child. Reading the manual and installing the seat properly is also extremely important. Make sure to test your child seats, make sure they aren’t too loose, that the belts are in the right spots and are tight enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives us some statistics that should remind us how important buckling your child up and using car seats is:
Car seat use reduces the risk for injury in a crash by 71–82% for children, when compared with seat belt use alone. Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children age 4–8, when compared with seat belt use alone. For older children and adults, seat belt use reduces the risk for death and serious injury by about half.
We know how dangerous car accidents are for everyone involved, but especially for children. With their more fragile bones and weaker muscles, their bodies are not as nearly as prepared for the sudden and extreme force experienced during a car crash. We want to make sure that everyone is using a car seat or booster as properly as they can, using the correct car seats at the right ages, and ensuring their child is buckled up in the safest way.
If you or your child has been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to call the Tulsa injury attorneys at Biby Law Firm at 918-574-8458 or use our contact form. Initial consultations are always free.