According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration there are four easy steps to protecting your children while riding in the vehicle. Each of the four steps is a specific car seat that is designed for certain stages of your child’s development. By following these recommendations one can rest assured that their child will be protected when traveling in the family car.
#1 – The first step is a rear facing car seat, typically a five point harness, that is intended for children from birth until a minimum age of one year and at least 20 pounds. This can be either an infant seat or a convertible seat. During this stage, children should always ride in the back seat of the vehicle. Many car seats on the market will accommodate a child beyond these minimums, and in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently published an article encouraging keeping children facing the rear of the vehicle until age 2 due to research showing they are up to 5 times safer than when forward facing.
#2 – Once your child has grown past the first step, they are ready to move on to the second stage of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations guidelines. The second stage recommends a forward facing car seat with a five point harness located in the back seat of the vehicle. This stage is for children who are AT LEAST one year and weigh more than twenty pounds (see note above) until the child is a minimum of four years old and forty pounds.
#3 – The third stage is for children four years and older who weigh at least forty pounds. Children in this category qualify to ride in a seat belt positioning booster seat. While these children need to remain the back seat, they are now able to use the adult seat belt that is provided with the vehicle. It is important to help these children to learn how to properly use the adult seat belt by reminding them that the lap portion of the belt should fit snugly across their lap and the shoulder part should always be across their midsection with the shoulder part resting directly on their shoulder. Children should remain in this stage until they are at least 4’9” tall and eight years old.
#4 – The final stage that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends in for children eight years old and older who are at least 4’9” tall. At this point children no longer need to have a seat belt positioning booster seat and therefore are able to sit in the back seat as an adult would.
These four stages have been developed to help parents to understand how to be provide a safe vehicle experience. There are a few other recommendations that are provided in order to help give parents the best understanding of car seat safety that is possible. Below are a few of these recommendations.
- Car seats expire. You should always check with the manufacture date to insure that your seat has not expired. Six years is typically average, however you should always consult the manufacturer.
- Car seats should always be installed per the instructions that are provided by the manufacturer. If unsure of how to get the best fit find a technician to assist with the process.
- Never use a car seat after is has been involved in an automobile accident, even if the child is not in the seat.
- Always make sure that the harness straps are tightened to a point where the strap cannot be pinched.
- Always fill out the manufacture’s warranty card and mail it in as soon as possible. This helps to insure that you will be made aware of any recalls that may include your seat.
When in doubt ask a professional. A professional car seat technician has gone to hours worth of training and is well versed in how various car seat have been engineered to fit in vehicles. A car seat technician in your area can be found at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm. Additionally, there are local car seat fitting checks offered periodically in Dallas-Fort Worth, so please watch the MomsOutLoud.com calendar as we’ll be placing every event we hear about on our list of events.
For more information on any of this information or to answer any further question you may have see the following webpages-
- www.nhtsa.gov. (Also check out their Ease of Use Ratings — a great way to see if the car seat you’re considering will be easy to use or a constant source of frustration. Has ratings for all types of car seats, infant through booster.)
Contributed by the Car Seat Specialists at Lone Star Baby & Kids, with stores in Dallas, Frisco, North Richland Hills.