Car Seats for Children
This information is about car seats for children. It tells you why you need them, how to buy and use them, and how to help your child adjust to them.
Most states have laws, which require that children be in approved child seats when riding in a motor vehicle. The laws vary slightly in different states, and in different areas within states, as far as the ages and weights of children are concerned. If you would like to know more about the specifics of the law in your area, contact your State Department of Transportation. These laws were enacted because it is very clear that correctly using approved car seats reduces the risk of serious injury and death to children involved in accidents.
In most local areas, police are serious about issuing tickets to drivers when they see children riding unrestrained in cars. It is important that you obtain a federally approved car seat, and learn how to use it correctly. If you buy a car seat, make sure it meets federal safety standards. This should be clearly marked on the box, or a sticker should be attached to the seat itself. If you use an older seat, make absolutely sure it was made after 1981. Many seats sold before 1981 do not meet current standards. If you use an older seat, also make sure it was never involved in any kind of accident. It may be weakened or damaged in a way that you can not easily see, but would effect its ability to protect your child.
There are two types of approved seats. The first is only for children under 20 lb. It is installed facing the rear of the car. The second type, called a convertible, can be adjusted to fit either infant or toddler. For children under 20 lb., the seat is installed facing the rear of the car, and then is turned to face forward when the child reaches 20 lb. Household infant carriers, and portable beds do not provide any crash protection and must not be used in cars.
Children over 20 lb. who can sit up alone should be in toddler or convertible seats. These seats are larger than infant seats and are used in a forward facing position. You should keep your child in this type of seat until he or she becomes too large for it. Then a booster seat can be used.
Car seats provide the most protection for your child, and should be used as long as possible. After outgrowing car seats, your child should always wear a seat belt while riding in a car. You need to know how to use your car seat safely. Put your child into the seat with his normal clothing on. Do not bundle blankets before adjusting the car seat harness. Blankets make it impossible to position the seat harness correctly. Tighten the seat harness so that it is snug against your child. Then, make sure the car seat is held firmly in place by putting the seat belts from your car through it. The seat belt should be tight enough to keep the car from moving. Every new car seat comes with directions for installing it in your car and using it correctly.
Read the directions carefully, and contact the manufacturer if you have any questions. Your child is safest sitting in the back seat of the car, especially in cars with safety air bags. Children have suffered greater injuries when the air bag opens up. If the child must be place in the front seat, the front seat should be moved back as far as possible from the dashboard and positioned facing the rear of the car.. Most important, a locking clip should be used on the seat belt to keep the car seat and belt tight. This clip usually is attached with the car seat instructions.
You teach your child the importance of car seats every time you buckle your seat belt. If you haven’t done it already, make a new rule for your family, “The car doesn’t move unless everyone is buckled up!” Help your child adjust to the car seat. Toddlers who have never been in car seats may resist. So train your child from the beginning by using the seat for every trip, no matter how short.
To help make the experience more pleasant, try having one or more travel toys that are left in the car and used only while riding. A favorite picture book or stuffed animal encourages quiet play, and keeps your child occupied. It also helps to engage your child in quiet conversation while you ride. Be sure to give praise for good behavior in the car. At some point, most children will fuss about being in the car seat. Stay firm and calm.
Remember your role: “The car doesn’t move unless everyone is buckled up!” After one or two tries, your child will stop fussing.
Remember these key points:
- All children should be in approved car seats for every car ride.
- Make sure the seat is tightly buckled with the seat belt, and the child can not wiggle out of the car seat.
- Everyone always should be buckled up whenever the vehicle is moving.