Children under 13 years old are still most likely to die in car accidents. While common sense says that you shouldn’t put a 5-year-old in a car seat or place a newborn in a booster seat in your car, there are some things you can do to make sure your child is safe.
Even if you’re not a parent or guardian of a child, you might not be aware that there are laws regarding how you can travel with your child or baby in a motor car. Although the regulations vary from one state to another, it is important to ensure your most valuable cargo is securely secured when you travel. The type of seatbelt required depends on the child’s age. However, the basic idea is that the laws of physics are different for smaller bodies and collisions. It is not enough to rely solely on adult-oriented safety systems.
This guide will help you choose the right car seat for your child.
What is the Law?
While safety regulations and standards for minors vary from one state to the next, all states have specific guidelines regarding the safety of passengers in cars under 16 years old. Colorado allows children aged 8-16 to wear standard seatbelts. Delaware, on the other hand, prohibits children under 12 years old from sitting in the front passenger’s seat unless the entire airbag is deactivated. All states require infants, toddlers, and babies up to age four to use a child car seat. Children up to age eight need to be strapped in a booster seat and those eight and older must use a regular seatbelt. There are differences in height and weight between states. Some specify offenses and fines.
Some states have more specific rules. For example, some states require that children under 2 years old be in rear-facing chairs. Others only require this for children younger than one year. You should be aware of what laws are in place in your state.
Different types of car seats for your child
There are four types of car seats for children, each with its own merits. The size of the seat is not important. However, your child’s height, weight, and size are.
- Rear-facing car seats: This seat is great for babies and small children. It cradles and protects your child completely. Your little one is secured with a harness and has more protection for their necks and spines. This type of car seat provides the best protection in a collision. It acts as a protective bubble around your child and allows them to move with you. You can buy them as infant-only or convertible car seats that turn to the forward when your child is older. Or, you can get an all-in-one booster seat that transforms into a booster seat as well.
- Forward-facing seat: These seats are suitable for slightly larger children. To limit forward movement in the event of a crash, the seat is tethered. These seats can sometimes be converted into booster seats when your child grows. These seats have the advantage of allowing your child to see you and their surroundings better.
- Booster seats are mainly used as an elevated seat. A booster places the standard seatbelt above the strongest parts of the pre-teen’s body. They may be completely backless or have additional neck and head support. These seats have two main advantages: the child is able to see well and the seatbelt is properly positioned to ensure maximum safety.
- Standard seatbelts: The standard safety belt can be used provided it is placed across the person’s upper thighs and snugly fits across their shoulders and chest. It should not cross the stomach, neck, or face. These seatbelts were not designed for children and are not as safe as car seats. Every passenger above the age of 12 should wear a seatbelt.
Guidelines of the NHTSA
We recommend that you follow the NHTSA’s guidelines regarding the best restraint method for your child. This authority recommends that you choose a child seat based on your age, height, or weight.
- Baby seat for newborns – 12 months: Rear-facing baby seats are recommended for car rides for children under 12 months old. These can be combined for babies over 12 months. They can also be used for toddlers smaller than 2 and 3 years old.
- 1 – 3 year olds and older: Once your child has outgrown the rear-facing car seat due to their maximum weight or height, you can move to a forward facing seat. Although the exact age guidelines may differ, it is recommended that your 6-year-old be in a car seat similar to this.
- 8-12 years of age: This can still be installed in the backseat, and it can be used for larger children (4 years old or up), but using a booster in your car for children 8-12 years old is the best option, according to NHTSA. Keep using it until the seatbelt is properly fitted.
- Seatbelt: Use only when your child is properly fitted. This should happen after 12 years.
Car Seat Safety Standards
You’ll be aware that buying a car seat is a significant financial investment. It’s not just about brand and status. While all car seats sold in America must comply with federal safety standards, there are still some cheaper options and seats that don’t meet these standards. You should never compromise on quality. It is best to read the label carefully to find out. These are the requirements for car seats that conform to standards:
- It should be written exactly as follows: “This restraint system is compliant with all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standard.” To confirm compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213, this restraint must be labeled. However, it may not need to include any language relating to aircraft.
- Information about the manufacturer and distributor, as well as the date it was manufactured.
- Installation instructions.
Car Seats: The Costs
While safety and well-being of your child cannot be measured in dollars, any parent with children will tell them that a budget is essential. It is advisable to spend a little more on car seats that meet federal safety standards. They are more likely not to prioritize safety over cheap imitations and other strange gadgets.
You can budget $50 to purchase a backless booster seat, or $500 to buy a top-end all-in-one seat that will grow with your child and allow them to use standard seatbelts. If you are able to find a car seat that is compliant for less than $100 and don’t want to pay for exclusive brands, you can still get your child a safe and comfortable ride.
How can you choose the right car seat for your baby?
These are the factors that will help you choose the right car seat for your child:
- Age and weight: It is obvious that a baby cannot be placed in a booster or rear-facing car seat. The NHTSA guidelines are a good starting point. However, if your child is larger or heavier than the average, you can move up to the next level of the car seat a bit earlier than their age.
- Type of car To find the best fit, it may be worthwhile to have one or two of these fitted into your vehicle by a professional.
- Easy of use: Certain seats are easier to set up than others, especially if they have a base. You should be able to install, manage, and fit any new purchase in a matter of minutes. Installing a car seat or using it on a daily basis should take no more than five minutes.
- Safety standards: Make sure that the seat you are considering buying meets federal and state safety standards. It is more important than the brand, appearance, or popularity of the seat among other moms in Book Club – your child’s safety is paramount. Before making a purchase, it is wise to speak with other parents and review the safety of child car seats.
- Practicality: Similarly, overly complicated seats don’t make sense. If it is difficult to install or clean a car seat for children, you might consider looking at other options.
Where and when to use child car seats
Although this may sound obvious to you, you’d be amazed at how many people believe it is perfectly acceptable to drive without a car seat for the ten or fifteen minute trip to the grocery store. No matter how fast you drive, always make sure your child is in a car seat. Accidents can also happen in driveways or cul-de-sacs. If you need to rush your child to a hospital because of an injury or illness, you can make exceptions to this rule. In that case, you should be sitting in the back.
The next question is where to place the car seat. It all depends on what type of car seat you have and the regulations in your state. The best option is to place the baby seat in the middle of your rear bench, away from active airbags. This is the standard configuration for all family sedans. This is the standard for family SUVs with three rows.
Do not place a car seat on the front row. If the airbag is activated against the seat, it can cause serious and even fatal injuries. However, if you are driving a truck with just one row of seats and have no choice but to install a car seat on the front seat, make sure that the airbag is activated first.
What is LATCH?
The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system (also known as LATCH) was created to make safety seats more easily and safer to be installed correctly without the use of seatbelts. The safety seat was usually secured using the existing seatbelts in older cars and child safety seat models before 2002. This method is safe if used correctly but many people have trouble installing child seats in their cars the right way.
LATCH systems, also known as ISOFIX or LUAS in Canada and Europe, consist of anchors that are mounted on the vehicle and car seats, along with hooks and connecting straps. Hidden in the back of the vehicle’s seat are lower anchors that consist of a pair of metal U-shaped bars that have been welded to its frame. Tether anchors are metal rings or bars that attach the seat to the vehicle’s frame. They can be found behind your seat on the shelf under your rear windshield. However, this may vary for minivans and SUVs. This system will help you ensure safety for your children. The NHTSA recommends that you use either LATCH anchors or seatbelts.
However, if your vehicle doesn’t have these or an older model seat, don’t lose heart. Just make sure you follow the instructions.
Tips for safe travel with infants and children
Let’s now look at safety tips for child car seats after we have covered the basics.
- Before you rush to load your family up and head out, make sure you are familiar with the installation procedures and processes. This is not something that you should rush through or do half-heartedly. You can practice if necessary, but make sure you do it correctly. If you have a car seat, and the base that it clips into, then it should not wobble or slide.
- Before strapping your child in their car seat, remove any bulky clothing. Make sure you remove bulky clothing before strapping your child into their car seat.
- After you have installed the seat, check the angle of the incline. This can be a concern for new parents, especially if the seat is rear facing. It may make it more difficult for you to monitor your baby. You should not allow your baby to flop forward or so much that they are unable to sit upright. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions. Many seats have leveling and gauge devices that will help you determine the correct angle. You should aim for a 45-degree angle.
- The harness should be adjusted to fit comfortably. The straps should not be bent and should rest flat against the body. You should be able slip one or two fingers underneath to verify.
- Do not rush to get to a booster or forward-facing seat too soon. While it is understandable to want to move to the next level as soon as possible, forward-facing or booster seats allow your child to interact with you and enjoy the ride. However, safety is more important. You should only move your child to the next seat if they are truly outgrowing the current arrangement in terms of their age, weight, and height.
- If you have two seats that need to be installed in the back, the youngest should be placed in the middle. You can also plan where you place the seats according to how long it takes to install the seat. If you park on the street, the door can be opened onto the sidewalk.
- The general rule is that passengers under 13 years old should sit in the back seat, where they are most comfortable.
- Register your car seat at the NHTSA for recall notices or safety updates.
Safety of your children should always be top priority. This means that every decision regarding their transportation carries a lot of weight. You need to consider everything, from how safe your car is to which ratings the child car seats you choose to put them in, to ensure they are safe. You must ensure that the car seat meets safety regulations and is properly installed. You should also ensure that the seat is appropriate for your child’s age and comply with all applicable laws.
Are two cars seats able to be placed next to each another?
Two seats can be installed in the back of your car if you have small children to strap in. The most vulnerable (i.e. the youngest) should be in the middle position. It is acceptable to use both the rear outboard positions if two seats cannot be seated next to each other.
Can car seats for children be used in planes?
Yes, they can. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration recommends that children under 4 years old use the seat appropriate to their age/weight.
Can I leave my child in the car unattended?
Your child should not be left unattended in public places, especially in cars. This is irresponsible parenting. Your child will be anxious and afraid all the time. They are also at risk of becoming suffocating, overheating and choking. Although some manufacturers now have rear-seat occupancy warnings installed, it is hard to imagine any parent forgetting their child and needing them. Never leave your child alone in the car.
Can I purchase a used car chair?
A used seat should not be purchased if it is older than two years. This is because the seat’s structural integrity and wear aren’t guaranteed. A used seat is still better than a new one. You should always inspect any used car seat that you find that is still in compliance with regulations. To give your car a thorough inspection, you can search the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Program for certified technicians.
Is it possible to allow my child to ride in the car seat of their car?
It’s okay to let your child sleep in the car if they’re properly strapped in, and the seat is correctly installed. This is how the seats were designed. Children and babies shouldn’t be left alone in car seats – they can be strangled or suffocated and could even die.