Child Safety Seats
Child Safety Seats?
Is Your Child At Risk?
Every day, children sustain
serious injuries and die in motor vehicle crashes. Many of these injuries and
deaths can be avoided with the correct use of child safety seats and safety
belts. However, many adults are unaware they are using the safety restraint
incorrectly, thereby placing their chid at risk. Many safety experts believe
that between 80 percent to 90 percent of child safety seats are installed and/or
Because children are not small
adults, they need special protection when traveling in motor vehicles. Their
bodies are very different from ours. Their skulls are more fragile, theirs heads
are proportionately larger, their rib cage is thinner, and they're shorter.
Types of Child Safety Restraints
Infant Seats. Infant seats
are designed for babies from birth until at least 20 pounds and one year of age.
They must ride rear-facing in their safety seats until they are at the
appropriate size/age to move to ...
Convertible Safety Seats.
These seats convert from rear-facing for infants to forward-facing for toddlers
weighing at least 20 pounds. Children should remain in a forward-facing seat
from 20 pounds until they reach approximately 40 pounds and four years of age.
Then they should graduate to ...
Booster Seats. These seats
are used as a transition to safety belts by older kids who have clearly outgrown
their convertible seat and are not quite ready for the vehicle belt system.
Safety Belts. When a child
is old enough and large enough to "fit" an adult safety belt, they can
be moved out of a booster seat. To "fit" a safety belt properly, the
lap belt should fit snugly and properly across the upper thighs and the shoulder
strap should cross over the shoulder and across the chest.
How Child Restraints Work
Babies, toddlers and young
children are physiologically different from adults, teenagers and even older
children. Because of their small stature and because their musculoskeletal
systems are not fully developed, seat belts cannot provide a proper and safe
means of restraining young children in the event of a crash. Safety seats are
engineered to provide the added protection children require.
Child safety restraints provide a
"ride-down" benefit during rapid deceleration. If properly installed,
child restraints work to allow the child's body to stop as the vehicle is
slowing, reducing the forces on the child's body and preventing contact with
hard surfaces inside the vehicle, with other occupants, the road, or other
Child safety seats also act to
spread crash forces over a broad area of the body, thereby reducing forces on
any particular part of the body, and distributing these forces to the strongest
parts of the skeleton (hips, back and shoulders).
What You Can Do ...
Never place an infant in a
rear-facing child safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle with a
passenger-side air bag. The force of the deploying air bag will hit the seat
(because of its close proximity to the dashboard) and can seriously injure or
kill an infant. Remember: All infant seats must be rear-facing, so the
only safe place to install it is in the back seat.
Children should ride properly
restrained in the back seat whenever possible. Children are much safer
(approximately 29 percent) the farther they are from the point of impact -- most
commonly a frontal crash.
It is critical that both the
shoulder and lap portion of the safety belt be used. However, if the best
system does not fit properly the child should be secured in a child restraint.
If a child must be seated in the
front seat, always move the vehicle seat as far back as possible
(particularly with a passenger-side air bag).
Be a role model. Always buckle
Child Seat Compatibility and
Always read both the
vehicle owner's manual and the car seat instructions carefully when deciding
which car seat to use and how to properly install it. Installation can be
difficult due to the variety of seat belt configurations, vehicle seat designs
and child safety seat designs. Check your car manual to find out if you need to
use a locking clip or other equipment to properly secure the seat.
The best car seat is the one that
fits the child, fits the vehicle and is one you will be able to install and use
correctly every time.
A correctly installed safety seat
is one that is held firmly in place by the vehicle seat belt. It should not be
possible to move the safety seat around.
Remember: The harness holds the
child in the car seat and the vehicle belt holds the car seat in the car. Be
certain both are secured properly.
If you have questions -- ask
Frequently Asked Questions on
Child Passenger Safety
Q: I feel I should always
keep an eye on my infant, and I keep hearing that the safest place to put my
infant is in the back seat. But if the seat has to be installed rear-facing, I
can't see her! What should I do?
A: This is a concern of
many parents. However, the bottom line is that the back seat is the safest place
for a child of any age to ride. Drivers who travel alone should allow plenty of
time to pull off the road if they feel the need to periodically check on the
baby. You may want to compare your child traveling to your child sleeping. You
probably don't watch your baby sleep all through the night. A healthy baby
properly secured in a safety seat should not need constant watching.
Q: My children are at ages
where they get restless in their car seats and try to move around. I find it
very distracting. Plus they fight with each other. I think it's safer to put one
of them up front where I can keep an eye on him.
A: No. The safest place is
in the rear seat properly buckled. It is critical not to give in to a child's
"growing pains" while traveling in a motor vehicle. Bring along some
soft toys to keep them occupied while properly buckled up and seated in the back
seat. This may sound difficult, but never take short cuts when it comes to
Q: I have trouble securing
my child safety seat in my car. It doesn't seem to work well with my seat belt
system. What am I doing wrong?
A: You may not be doing
anything wrong. Some child safety seats and some vehicle belt systems are not
compatible. The most important thing to do is read the instructions that come
with the child seat (and keep them handy at all times) and all sections in the
vehicle manual that discuss safety seat installation. Never undertake "make
shift" measures. Your child should fit securely in the safety seat and the
safety seat should fit securely in the vehicle seat. If it doesn't, contact the
car seat manufacturer.
Q: I have three children
and my back seat only seats two. I transport all three kids to school and other
activities. I've heard that children belong in the rear seat. What can I do?
A: You're right. The
safest place is the rear seat. However, there are times when placing all
children in the rear isn't possible (as in your case where there aren't enough
belts for all three children). If you must seat a child in the front seat,
usually the oldest/largest child would be the most appropriate. If your child is
the proper size, make sure that the lap and shoulder belts are properly fastened
and move the vehicle seat back as far as possible away from the dashboard.