The first step you can take in protecting your children in the car is to buckle them up. Riding unrestrained or improperly restrained in a car is the single greatest risk factor for death and injury for children.
All 50 states require child safety seats, but restraints may vary by age, weight, and height among states. You can find out what each state requires at the Governors Highway Safety Association website.
Here are some tips that will help you keep your tot safe in the car.
When a car seat is correctly installed and used, it can reduce the risk of death for infants by 71% and for toddlers by 54%.
Make sure you have the right car seat for your child's age and size. Each type of seat will have different height and weight recommendations, so it is important to carefully read the product information provided with your car seat. States may vary in their traffic safety regulations as well, so you may want to look up the laws in your state. A certified child passenger (CPS) technician can help with your selection. Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website to search for a technician in your area.
Another point to consider is your car. Most cars made after 2002 are equipped with the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) attachment system, which offers additional protection. Check with your car dealer if you have questions.
Types of Car Seats
The following list of provides a general outline for their appropriate use by type of car seat. Keep in mind that the manufacturer's guidelines for each seat can differ even within a particular category of seats:
Once the child has reached the recommended height and age, the regular seat belt can be used. It is important that both the lap and the shoulder belts are properly positioned. In addition:
Children under 13 years of age should still ride in the rear seats of the vehicle.
Remember to be a good role model for your children. Always wear your seat belt and make sure your children know that your attention must be on the road and not them. Consider bringing along some soft toys to keep them occupied. Not all accidents can be prevented but these safety steps will help create the best outcome possible.
American Academy of Pediatrics
National Safe Kids Campaign
Canada Safety Council
Boosters are for big kids! SafetyBeltSafe USA website. Available at: http://www.carseat.org/Boosters/630.pdf. Updated July 5, 2010. Accessed December 6, 2012.
Buckle Up Boston. Boston Public Health Commission website. Available at: http://www.bphc.or.... Accessed December 6, 2012.
Car Safety. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS. Accessed December 6, 2012.
Car safety seats: Information for Families 2012. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthy.... Updated May 28, 2012. Accessed December 6, 2012.
Car Seats and Booster Basics. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Patents Central website. Available at: http://www.safercar.gov/parents/RightSeat.htm. Accessed December 6, 2012.
Child passenger safety. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/CPS/ . Accessed December 6, 2012.
Child Passenger Safety Laws Governors Highway Safety Association website. Available at: http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/childsafety_laws.html. Updated January 2013. Accessed January 7, 2013.
Traffic Safety Facts 2008 Data: Children. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Available at: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811157.pdf. Accessed December 6, 2012.
10/5/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Parikh SN, Wilson L. Hazardous use of car seats outside the car in the United States, 2003-2007. Pediatrics. 2010;126(2):352-357.
3/28/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance.http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php.Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, Durbin DR. Pediatrics. 2011;127(4):788-793.
Last reviewed January 2013 by Brian P. Randall, MD
Last Updated: 1/7/2013