When an issue, such as Child Passenger Safety, settles into the category of “common sense” we have to work a little harder to keep it part of our routine conversation about driving. Drivers of young children should always be concerned about whether they are correctly using and installing car seats and booster seats. National Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week runs from September 15-21 and we wanted to take the time to start the conversation about child passenger safety, specifically car seats.
Jump to Contents – Click Any Below
- Car Seat Stages – Age, Height, Weight
- The 5 Step Seat Belt Test
- Car Seat and Booster Seat Laws – KY, IN, OH
- Installation and Practice Tips
- How to Properly Secure Your Child
- Replacing Car Seat After a Crash?
Why Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week Matters
Child Safety Awareness Isaacs
In 2017, one child under the age of 13 was involved in a passenger vehicle crash, every 32 seconds.1 Of those children, 675 were killed.2 According to Safe Kids, road injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths and injuries in children in the U.S. Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death as much as 71%.3 This week, take a moment to research the use of child passenger safety devices such as booster seats, car seats and seatbelts and make sure you are using yours safely and correctly!
The information below is a general guideline and starting point for car seat information. Ultimately, you should always read your own child restraint system manual along with the vehicle manual.
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Which Child Passenger Safety Device is Right for Your Child?
The age and size of your child determines the type of car seat that is most beneficial to his or her overall safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, infants and toddlers should be kept in rear-facing car seats until they reach the manufacturer’s weight limit. Once children hit the rear-facing weight limit, they can then travel in forward-facing seats with a harness.
Car Seat Stages
Stage 1 – Rear-Facing
- Birth to max height and weight limit of the rear-facing seat, which is at least 2 years old, suitable for children 3 or 4 years of age. According to the manufacturer’s instructions, the maximum weight for a rear-facing Britax Click Tight Convertible car seat is 40 lbs.
Stage 2 – Forward Facing With a 5-point Harness
- For children at least 2 years old, but also suitable for children at least for 3 to 4 years old, when they outgrow their rear-facing car seat height and weight limit. These seats include a Convertible (Forward Facing), All-in-one seat (Forward Facing with a harness) and Combination seat (harness mode).
Stage 3 – Booster With Car Seat Belt
- When a child outgrows their forward-facing car seat and passes the 5-Step seat belt fit test, usually between the ages of 9 and 12 years old. These seats include a high back booster or backless booster, all-in-one combination seat (booster mode).
Stage 4 – Seat Belt Only
- When a child can pass the 5-Step seat belt fit test, typically when a child is 57” tall and around 9 to 12 years old. Proper fit of a seat belt can vary by car so check the vehicles owner’s manual on each position that a child may ride in.
Do you want to make sure you’re using the correct safety seat? You can double-check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Find the Right Seat” search!
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The 5 Step Seat Belt Test
This test for children can be used to determine if they are ready to ride in a vehicle with only a seat belt.
- Child can sit with their lower back against the seat and feet on the floor.
- Keep their knees naturally bent at the edge of the seat.
- The lap belt should lay across the child’s thighs.
- The shoulder belt should cross mid-shoulder/mid-chest. (Should not touch the neck)
- Child should be able to ride like this for the duration of the ride.
Pay Attention to Seat Belt Entanglement
Seat belt entanglement can seriously injure a child if they are wrapped up in their seat belts during an accident. Entanglement occurs when a child pulls out a seat belt all the way and wraps it around his or her neck, head or waist. It’s another reason why you should never leave your children unattended in the car.
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Car Seat and Booster Seat Laws
Each state has slightly different car seat and seat belt laws. The following describes the laws pertaining to the states in which our law offices reside. These laws are sometimes the bare standards when it comes to child safety.
* Seat belt Law: Yes (All ages)
* Car Seat/Booster Seat Law:
- Children 40” or less are required to ride in a child restraint system.
- Children under 8 years old and between 40” to 57” tall are required to ride in a booster seat.
- Any child taller than 57”, regardless of age, is not required to ride in a booster seat.
* Seat belt Law: Yes (All ages)
* Car Seat/Booster Seat Law:
- All children under the age of 1 and less than 20 lbs. must be rear facing.
- Children at least 1 year old and 20 lbs. can be forward-facing in a child safety seat with a harness.
- Children at least 30 lbs. may use a booster seat.
- All children under the age of 8 must use a child safety seat in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
* Seat belt Law: Yes
- Drivers and Front Seat Passengers: All Ages
- Back Seat: All ages under 15
* Car Seat/Booster Seat Law:
- Children under the age of 4 years old or less than 40 lbs. must use a child restraint system at all times. Installation must meet the manufacturer’s requirements.
- Children under 8 must use a booster seat unless the child is 57” or taller.
Child Passenger Safety Device Installation and Practice
Child restraint systems are only as effective as their installation. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 59% of car seats and 20% of booster seats are not used correctly,5 which can seriously impair their overall efficiency. The following tips will help you make the right choice while installing and using a car seat or booster seat.
* Use the Correct Device for the Height and Weight of Your Child
- Check your state’s laws as well as your child safety seat manufacturer instructions.
* Use Either the Seat Belt or LATCH
- You can either use the car’s seat belt or the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH), but do not use both at the same time unless it is an explicitly approved method in your car seat manual.
- The lower anchor (LATCH) system is rated for a maximum weight of 65 lbs. (Total weight includes the weight of the child and the car seat).
* Make Sure the Seat’s Securely Mounted
- Place the car seat in the best seating position of your vehicle. Place the seat belt through the car’s seat belt path (clearly labeled on the seat) or connect the Lower Anchor Straps on your child’s restraint system to the “U” shaped bars hidden in the vehicle’s seat crack. Use the top tether if installing forward-facing. This is found behind the vehicle’s seat. Refer to the vehicle’s manual to find which seat position in your vehicle has a tether anchor and where to locate them.
- Press firmly down on the seat while tightening the seat belt, lower tether and/or the top tether. Make sure the seat belt is locked. Some child restraint systems come with lock offs/on of the seat or base itself.
- The Inch Test: When you install your car seat or booster seat, press the seat firmly down as you tighten the seat belt or tethers. Then, do an “inch test” to make sure the seat doesn’t move more than one inch (front to back or side to side) after it has been secured.
* Check the Expiration Date
- Over time, industry standards change and so does technology, which is why child restraints have an expiration date. Most child restraints have the expiration stamped on the manufacturer’s label located on the sides or the base of the car seat. Some only show the date of manufacturing. Most seats have a 6 to 10-year life span from the date of manufacturing.
* Make an Emergency Card
- Hopefully, you will never experience a serious crash with your family. In the event that you are in an accident and are unable to communicate with your children, an emergency card with the child’s name, date of birth, emergency contact information, medical information and other vital details will help first responders identify your children.
How to Properly Secure Your Child
The most important thing you can do to make sure your child is secure is to make sure your car seat correctly fits your child. Once you know you have the right car seat or booster seat, make sure to check the following elements:
- Rear-facing: should come from at or below the child’s shoulders.
- Forward-facing: should come at or above the child’s shoulders.
- To know if a car seat’s straps are tight enough, it must pass the pinch test. Try pinching the strap at the child’s collarbone. If you are able to pinch any material during this test, the strap is too loose. Your fingers should slide off the harness when it is tight enough.
Buckle Position and Chest Clip
- This can vary by seat. Check your seats manufacturer’s instructions for proper buckle/harness placement.
Should I Replace my Car Seat After a Crash?
Should a car seat be replaced after a collision? The answer: It depends.
In an attempt to reduce the number of children who go without a child restraint while their old one is being replaced, the NHTSA recommends replacing a car seat or booster seat after a moderate or severe crash.6 If the airbags didn’t deploy, there was little to no visible damage to the car or the door closest to the car seat was undamaged, your car seat may be unscathed.
However, it’s important to check with the seat’s manufacturer before making a final decision. The force of the crash may have caused damage to the frame that will ultimately inhibit its ability to protect your child from future incidents.
Drive Safe and Remember to Fasten Your Seat Belts!
This week, take care to check and double-check your child’s safety restraint system and read over the owner’s manual. And remember, the best way to encourage your children to practice car safety is to practice car safety yourself. As adults, it’s our responsibility to set a good example and always wear our seat belt!
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1601 Business Center Ct
Louisville, KY 40299
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1. [Child Passenger Safety Week]↩
2. [NSC Regional Conferences]↩
5. [Child Passenger Safety: Get the Facts]↩
6. [Car Seat Use After a Crash]↩
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