Car Seat Safety and Best Practices
As a parent, the most important cargo I carry in my minivan is my children. I have two little girls, and sometimes it feels like I drive all day and get no thanks in return, but that is probably better addressed as the subject of another post. Every parent wants to keep his or her children safe, and in 2017 that means buckling your child into a car seat or booster seat and practicing good car seat safety.
In Utah, a child who is under the age of eight or who is less than 57 inches tall must be secured in a car seat or booster seat. Utah Code Ann. § 41-6a-1803. According to the Utah Department of Health, children should remain in a rear-facing car seat until age two.
The law, however, can be an incomplete picture of all the things that you need to do to keep your children safe when riding in their car seats. The following recommendations will enhance your knowledge of car seat safety and may help prevent any injuries if you happen to be involved in an accident while your children are riding in the backseat.
Practicing Car Seat Safety
1. Install the car seat correctly.
Each year thousands of children are injured in car accidents, and the numbers could be much lower. It turns out that at least three out of four car seats are not installed properly and thus not adequately secured to the vehicle seat.
Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for installation. If you are unsure about how to install the car seat or whether or not you did it correctly, you can always have your car seat inspected. See the link above to find an inspector in Montana.
2. Use the correct car seat for your child.
All children should ride in the backseat until they are at least 13 years old, no matter what the state law says, according to preventijury.org.
Younger children should ride in a size-appropriate car seat. Some car seat safety instructions list recommended ages, but the age should be less important than the recommended height and weight. The car seat is designed to protect children that fit in the height and weight categories. The laws of physics do not care that your child is small for her age.
3. Keep your child in a rear-facing seat as long as possible.
This recommendation is relatively new, but experts now say that children between the ages of 1 and 3 years should still ride in a rear-facing seat. If your child weighs more than the recommended weight for a rear-facing seat, it is time to let them ride forward facing, but keep your toddler rear facing as long as possible.
4.Older children should use a five-point harness.
For older children, keep them in a car seat with a harness for as long as possible. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions and the advice of your pediatrician. Once your child has grown to the largest size allowed in the harness seat, you are safe to allow them to ride in a booster seat.
5. Do not buy car seats second hand.
Children are expensive, and you may want to use a second-hand car seat. Don’t. Car seats are one of those things you should buy new. Car seats have expiration dates, and you should never use a car seat that has expired. Car seat safety regulations change based on the newest research and the materials are only guaranteed to protect your child until the expiration date.
6. Replace the car seat after a serious accident.
Car seats may lose their ability to protect your child if the car seat is damaged in an accident. It may be hard to see car seat damage, so if your little munchkin is riding in his or her car seat during an accident that is more than a fender bender it is better to be safe than sorry and replace the car seat.