Child Safety Seats

Parenting in the Early Years

Child Safety Seats

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Safe Kids Coalition Experts Issue Summer Safety Warnings

Keeping Kids Safe During Air Travel

Accidents are the major cause of childhood deaths and a frequent cause of significant disability. Many accidents can be prevented by simple precautions. The following are some tips to help secure your child's safety.

Child Safety Seats (Car Seats)

Transporting your child safely in the car is not an easy thing to do. Most parents make an attempt to fasten their children in properly, but a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration study found that 80 percent of all child safety seats are installed incorrectly or misused. The same study showed that in more than 50 percent of deaths due to car crashes in children less than 15 years old, the victims were not properly restrained. Research has shown that child safety seats reduce the risk of dying in a car crash by 71 percent.

The lesson to be learned from these figures is that we need to secure our children, our older passengers, and ourselves properly each and every time we ride in a motor vehicle, no matter how short the trip may be.

Keep in mind that most car crashes take place two miles or less from home.

Recycling Car Seats

Guidelines for Using Child Safety Seats

Here is some basic information to use as guidelines for child safety seats and keeping older children safe in cars:

Rear-Facing As Long As Possible into the Second Year of Life

Infants are required to be rear-facing until one year of age and 20 pounds, but new crash studies show that infants are much safer if placed in the rear facing position. Forward facing infants do not have the neck strength to protect their head, neck, spine and back if involved in a car crash.

The most recent recommendations are to keep your baby rear-facing as long as possible into the second year of life. If you have a 9 month old who weighs 25 pounds, he needs to be rear facing at least until 12 months is reached. On the other hand, if you have a 16 month old who is 18 pounds, he must remain rear facing until 20 pounds is reached.

The weight limits on the infant safety seats are 18 to 22 pounds and the height limit is 26 inches.

The convertible child safety seat can be used in the rear facing position until approximately 20 pounds is reached and then turned around into a forward facing position for 20 to 40 pounds. The height and weight limit varies from car seat to car seat. Be sure to check your car seat for its height and weight limits.

Forward-Facing with Full Harness Until 40 Pounds and 4 Years Old

Child in car seat 

You should keep your child in a forward-facing safety seat with a full harness until he reaches 40 pounds and 4 years old, or until your child reaches the weight limits of your safety seat. Be sure to check the weight and height limits on your car seat. Your child is not safe in his or her car seat if he or she has gone over the height and weight limits.

Booster Seats

Once a child is at least 4 years old and 40 pounds, and has outgrown the forward-facing child safety seat, a booster seat should be used.

There are several types of booster seats:

  • A high-back booster seat comes with a 3 point or 5 point harness for younger children who are not quite mature enough for the belt positioning boosters. The harness keeps the younger child restrained safely.
  • Belt-positioning booster seats have no back to them and no harness. They are a plastic seat that simply boosts your child up and uses the shoulder and lap belt from your car.
  • Shield boosters are another type of booster seat. These are not recommended, but can be used if a lap belt is the only type of seat belt available. Shield boosters are not appropriate for children more than 40 pounds and for taller than average preschoolers because of the risk of internal injuries in a car crash.

Wisconsin's laws requires that you keep your child in a booster seat located in the back seat until he reaches 8 years of age, weighs more than 80 pounds or is taller than 4 ft. 9 inches. These conditions need to be met before it is legal and safe to be out of a booster seat.

Note that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises the use of the booster seats in the back seat of the car till children are between 8 and 12 and are over 4 ft. 9 inches and can safely use the standard seat belt. The shoulder strap needs to fit across the chest, and the lap belt needs to fit across the hip. The child should be able to sit with his knees bent and his back against the seat of the car. The seat belt was designed to fit an adult, not a child. This is why booster seats are required.

Never let a child who requires a car seat or booster chair sit in the front seat with an air bag. This is very dangerous. Head and spinal cord injuries can result from the force of the airbag on impact. Please share this information with any older children or adults that may be driving your children to and from activities.

General Information About Car Safety Seats

  • Read the instruction booklet for your child safety seat
  • Some newer model mini-vans come equipped with integrated child safety seats
  • The harness clip should be at armpit level
  • You should be able to move the car seat only one inch or less from side to side and one inch or less from top to bottom when the child safety seat is installed correctly with a seat belt
  • The harness straps should be very snug. If you can pinch the fabric, it is too loose and needs to be tightened. This is true for all ages of children in child safety seats.
  • For a rear-facing infant, the lowest harness slots should be used. The straps should be below or at shoulder level.
  • For a forward-facing infant, the straps should be at or above the shoulders
  • If your infant seat did not come with a built-in head support, you should not add one. Instead, you should roll up two receiving blankets and, starting at the infant's head and ending at his toes, line the outer side of the car seat with the receiving blankets, having one blanket on each side of your baby. This will keep your baby safest in the car seat. Do not purchase a head support to add on to your car seat. In a car crash, this is considered to be unsafe and dangerous for your child.
  • Never let your infant less than 6 months wear a snowsuit in a child safety seat. The harness straps will not fit properly, your child may overheat and, in a crash, it can be dangerous for your child if he is wearing a snowsuit.
  • Never put thick padding behind your child in a child safety seat
  • Car seats have an expiration date. Please refer to your seat for its expiration date. If one is not printed on it, assume 6 years from date of manufacture.
  • If your car seat is in a crash, destroy it. Call your insurance company for possible reimbursement.
  • Do not buy a used car seat unless you have the instruction booklet, you know whether or not it has been in a crash, the date of manufacture or any known recalls
  • Check with your doctor's office and watch the media for car seat check-up schedules in your area

Always Remember When Traveling By Car

  • Buckle up yourself every time you get into the car
  •  Don't start the engine until everyone is buckled. If you have an unbuckled passenger in your back seat and you are in a crash, you can get injured.
  • Insist that your teens buckle up
  • Never let children share seat belts
  • Buy a child safety seat that fits your car and the size of your child, in a style that suits you and fits your budget
  • Seat belt adjusters and other "aftermarket adjusters" have not been tested and are not recommended
  • Keep your child rear-facing until 20 pounds and one year
  • Keep your booster-aged child in a booster seat until he can properly wear a seat belt-when the child is 8 years old, 80 pounds, 4 ft. 9 inches tall and able to sit with his back against the back seat of the car with knees bent, the shoulder strap across the chest and the lap belt over the hips