Keeping Children Safe in the Car
Did you know that car accidents are the leading cause of death for children? Car seat safety is very important. Well-intentioned parents, who desire to keep their children safe in the car, often make common mistakes that put their children at risk. Parents and caregivers can increase their children’s safety by using proper car seats in accordance with the age recommendations. Also, everyone needs to be sure that car seats are installed correctly.
Minnesota law requires that children under the age of eight or under 4’9” cannot ride with just a seat belt. In addition, it is recommended that children who are too large for a forward-facing seat but are not yet eight years old or are under 4’9” use a booster seat. Minnesota had the most lenient age requirement law regarding car seat use when compared to all of its surrounding states until 2009. Many other states required the use of a car seat or booster seat until age eight before Minnesota law changed to match.
Minnesota law also states that car seats must be the right kind for the size of the child. Children under age one and under twenty pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat. Many parents make the mistake of thinking that their child can face forward if they are one year old or twenty pounds, but this is incorrect; the child must meet both criteria.
Once the child is forward facing, he or she should be in a car seat with a harness that is belted into the car using the car’s seatbelt (more recently, the “Latch” system can also be used if the car and the car seat both have it).
Children can move to a booster seat when they reach 40 pounds. In a booster seat, the child is belted in with the car’s seatbelt. The booster seat helps to make sure the vehicle’s seatbelt fits the child correctly. The booster seat should be used in the back seats of vehicles. Children should never be placed in the front seat until the age of 13. Even though air bags save lives, they can cause serious injury and even death to a child.
Proper installation of a car seat helps keep children safe. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as many as 80 percent of all car seats are incorrectly installed and used. This is an alarming number. The confusing designs of many car seats are to blame. It is important to read the instruction book carefully to ensure that seats are installed correctly. Most communities offer free car seat installation checks by trained car seat inspectors. Contact your local police department to find out where to have car seats checked in your area.
Car seat safety is a must for the well-being of our children. By making sure the proper car seats are used and installed correctly, parents and caregivers can rest assured that their children are as safe as possible in their motor vehicles.