Every day in America, too many children ride in car seats that have been installed incorrectly. Some kids are even in the wrong car seats for their age and size. Finding the right car seat and installing it correctly is not easy, but that does not mean a child should not buckle. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 59 percent of car seats are misused. That means 59 percent of parents think they have correctly installed their child’s car seat!
To help combat this issue, the NHTSA developed a campaign dedicated to helping parents and caregivers make sure their children ride as safely as possible. Child Passenger Safety Week runs September 18 to 24. The week concludes with National Seat Check Saturday on September 24, when certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians across the country will be available at car seat events to offer advice and instruction to parents and caregivers.
NHTSA recommends keeping kids rear-facing as long as possible. Ideally, until they reach the top height or weight allowed by their particular seats. Once a kid outgrows the rear-facing-only “infant” seat, he/she should travel in a rear-facing convertible seat. When your child outgrows the rear-facing size limits, the child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness. After outgrowing the forward-facing car seats with harness, children should go in booster seats until they’re the right size to use seat belts safely.
Rear-Facing Car Seat (Ages 0-3)
Any child under the age of 1 should be in a rear-facing “infant” only seat. After 1, he/she can be switched to a rear-facing “convertible” seat. NHTSA recommends keeping kids in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 2 years old. Rear-facing seats are safest for younger and smaller kids because they reduce the stress to the neck and spinal cord during a collision.
Forward-Facing Car Seat (Ages 1-7)
Kids should not switch to a forward-facing car seat until he/she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Only then should he/she be switched to a forward-facing car seat with a harness and back seat. These types of seats help to reduce forward motion during a collision.
Booster Seat (Ages 4-12)
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat until he/she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Switch him/ her to a booster seat at this point. The booster seat will help to position the seat belt over the correct parts of the kid’s body.
Seat Belt (Ages 8-13+)
Once a kid can fit in a seat belt properly, he/she can be moved out of the booster seat. What does it mean for the seat belt to fit properly? This means the belt sits across the upper thighs, not the stomach. And, the shoulder belt should lie across the shoulder and chest — not across the neck or face.
Both NHSTA and safecar.gov offer useful checklist and videos to help with car seat and booster seat installation.
While researching National Child Passenger Safety Week, I came across information about how a pregnant woman should wear her seat belt. Definitely some info worth sharing!
Where Can I Go To Have My Car Seat Installed or Checked?
Safe Kids of Northeast Florida has a standing Safe Kids Buckle Up inspection site at 3563 Philips Highway, Jacksonville, FL 32207. Child passenger safety technicians can check in-use seats and verify the safety seats are properly installed and buckled in. Inspections are by appointment only. Call 904.202.4302 to schedule an appointment.
If you live in St. Johns County, the Project Buckle Up Initiative provides access to nationally certified Child Passenger Safety technicians by appointment. Technicians assist parents and caregivers with the inspection and installation of child safety seats. Call (904) 209-2250 to make an appointment. St Johns also offers discounted child safety seats to qualifying St. Johns County parents or legal guardians. Parents or guardians must be able to demonstrate financial need according to program guidelines. Qualifications include: resident of St. Johns county, parent or legal guardian of the child AND assistance from food stamps or Medicaid. Project Buckle Up offers two types of child safety seats: rear-facing/forward-facing convertible seat and a forward-facing/belt-positioning booster.