Protecting young children in automobiles should be of the utmost importance for parents when on the road. Studies have shown that children who are seated in age- and size-appropriate vehicle restraint systems may be at a significantly lower risk of sustaining serious or fatal injuries during motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic crashes account for the leading cause of death among children in the United States. Because of their diminutive statures, kids who suffer injuries in motor vehicle accidents may fair far worse than adults who suffer similar injuries.
While many parents understand the need for proper child safety seats, keeping up-to-date on regulations can be challenging. However, infant seats, convertible seats and booster seats can mean the difference between minor injuries and fatality in the event of accidents.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute states that all 50 states and the District of Columbia have child safety seat laws. Child safety seat laws require that children travel in approved child restraints or booster seats, and some permit or require older children to use adult safety belts.
For up-to-date regulations regarding specific states or U.S. territories, drivers can consult with their state’s or territory’s Highway Safety Offices. These offices will provide detailed explanations of height and weight limits and when children can be moved between seats.
For example, in New Jersey, children under 2 years of age and under 30 pounds must ride in rear-facing infant seats. Children who are under 40 pounds and up to 4 years of age can be moved to forward-facing seats only if they have exceeded the weight limits of rear-facing seats. Children under the age of 8 and a height of 57 inches may move to a belt-positioning booster seat. Once children grow taller than 57 inches or reach age 8, it is safe for them to ride in properly secured seat belts.
By law, Canadian children must be secured in a car seat made for their weight and height. As regulations vary in the provinces and territories, it is essential that drivers read the provincial/territorial regulations for laws in their areas.
According to Transport Canada, there are four stages of safety seat usage for children. Stage 1 begins with rear-facing seats placed at a 45-degree angle so that the baby’s head is supported. When the child outgrows the car seat’s weight and height limits, he or she can move on to a forward-facing seat (Stage 2). However, it is best to leave the child rear-facing as long as possible to prevent head injury.
Forward-facing seats have harness straps that are more narrow than vehicle seat belts and fit children’s small shoulders. Children should be snugly harnessed. The seat also should be attached to the vehicle’s Universal Anchorage System (UAS) so that the seat cannot move more than one inch (25 centimeters) in any
Booster seats are the next stage (3). High-backed booster seats provide more support than backless seats. Booster seats should be used as long as possible, until children outgrow the height and weight for the seat. Even then, another booster seat may be necessary before straight seatbelt use – which is Stage 4.