The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns that automobile accidents are the leading causes of death for children between the ages of one year and 13 years. It is sobering to note that installation errors are sometimes to blame for injuries or fatalities. Then again, while it is true that statistical evidence points to the incorrect use of three out of every four installed car seats, these devices nevertheless have shown to save lives over the course of the decades.
Officials estimate that properly installed age-appropriate car seats may be credited with saving about 9,600 children’s lives between 1975 and 2010. These children were all under the age of four. Avoiding or at least minimizing child injuries during a car accident is therefore related to the proper choice of safety seat as well as the proper installation of the device.
Rear-facing Car Seat
Traditionally, newborns and infants were required to be transported in a rear-facing car seat. Manufacturers frequently include side padding to keep smaller infants from sliding too much in the seat. Yet in 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a new recommendation that – although it has not been translated into law – nevertheless urges parents to keep children in rear-facing seats until the age of two. The experts cited a study that children under the age of two “are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing.” Parents who wish to follow this recommendation are urged to check the seat manufacturer’s height and weight limits for individual models.
Forward-facing Car Seat
When the child has reached the height or weight limit of the rear-facing seat, the youngster should be ready to transition into a forward-facing child safety seat. These seats feature harnesses that safely restrain the child during a collision. Some models can be converted into a booster seat. Injuries can still occur if the seat is not tethered properly and the youngster’s head moves forward too much. If you drive a vehicle that has been manufactured after 2002, it should feature a lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) restraint system. When you shop for a car seat, pick one that accommodates a latch hook-up.
The booster is another forward facing seat. It works in conjunction with the vehicle’s over-the-shoulder seat belt. Some boosters have backs. They accommodate shorter children who nevertheless outgrew the forward-facing seats. Back-less boosters are good options for taller children riding in cars with headrests. The booster seat helps to position the seat belt so that it fits across the child’s body for maximum safety.
Choosing the right car seat not only calls for the selection of height and weight appropriate models, but there are also differences in the ratings. For example, did you know that the NHTSA has a seat rating that evaluates the clarity of instructions, installation features, proper labeling and adequate child restraints? Purchasing a seat with these labels in mind further helps to prevent – or at least minimize – a child’s injuries during a crash.