Updates on Car Seat Regulations To Ensure Your Child Is Safe
Roy C. Maynard, M.D., is the Medical Director for PHS. He serves as PHS’s clinical leader, working with the team to provide consultation and advice to ensure quality and effective care to children and their families in their own homes. He also leads implementation of clinical policies, procedures and programs to further enhance the best possible care for each child. He is a Neonatologist and Pediatric Pulmonologist, and serves as a staff physician at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis, Minn.
There is an epidemic contributing to the death of children in the United States. Up to 4 children die per day in the US in motor vehicle accidents (MVA) and many of these deaths are preventable with appropriate use of car seats or booster seats. In fact, 16% of deaths in children aged 1 to 15 years between the years 2001 to 2011 were attributed to being a child passenger in a MVA.
In a study released in 2004 on the use of restraining devices (car seats and booster seats), critical misuse with an improper set-up was identified 72.6% of the time. Best practices for car seat safety have been established by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA). These include the following;
- Location– the rear seat is safest and recommended for all children till at least age 13.
- Direction- rear facing is safest; in fact 500% safer for infants in rear facing seats than forward facing seats.
- Selection– pick the safest method and device for your child and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the seat for weight and length.
- Installation- know the basics about your restraining devices and their manufacturer’s instructionsas well as resources in your community. The latter can be found at NHTSA.dot.gov, safekids.org, or seatcheck.org. For children with special health care needs additional resources are available. These include “Safe Transportation of Children with Special Needs: A guide for Families “available thru the American Academy of Pediatrics and also a web based resource, preventinjury.org.
Age specific recommendations are also available:
- Infants under age 1 should always ride in a rear facing car seat. Some convertible and 3-in1 car seats have weight and length limits that will allow children over age 1 to stay in a rearward facing car seat past the age of 1. This position is always safer than a forward facing car seat.
- Between the ages of 1 and 3 years your car seat (based upon the manufacturer’s weight and length limitations) may allow the safest rearward positioning. When a child outgrows the rearward facing seat then they are ready to travel in a forward facing car seat with a restraining harness.
- Between the ages of 4 and 7 years, a child should continue in a forward facing car seat with a harness till the child outgrows the weight and length limits preset by the manufacturer. Car seats are considered safer than booster seats till the child outgrows the car seat. Booster seats are used only after the child outgrows the manufacturer’s weight and height limits of the forward facing car seat.
- Between the ages of 8 and 12 years, a child should remain in the rear seat sitting in a booster seat until big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly (without use of a booster seat) the seat belt should lie across the upper thighs and NOT across the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the chest and shoulder, NOT the face or neck. Generally speaking children need to use booster seats till they’re at least 57 inches tall.
——————————————————————————————————————————Originally published: October 27, 2014