September 18 –24 is National Child Passenger Safety Week.  On September 24, there will be a National Seat check for parents to take their child seats for an inspection by certified CPS technicians.   When you shop for a new car, you want to know all the safety features it has; the same goes for the child seat that you choose for your little one.  Here are the stages of guidelines for child passenger safety, from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Until Age 1/20 Lbs:  Keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of their particular seat.  At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until at least age 1 year and at least 20 lbs.
  • Until age 4/40 Lbs: After reaching age year 1 and at least 20 pounds, they may ride in forward-facing child seats, in the back seat.  This is appropriate until they reach age 4 and 40 lbs.
  • Until Age 8 or 4’9” Tall: Once children outgrow their forward facing seats, (at around age 4/40 lbs.), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly.  Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they are 4”9” tall.
  • After Age 8 or 4’9” Tall: They may now use the adult seat belts in the back seat, if they fit properly (lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belts fits across the chest.)
  • Children younger than 13 years old should ride in the back seat.  Never place a child in the front seat facing an airbag. 

Other information from the CDC from 2008, was that child safety seats reduced the risk of death in car crashes by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers ages one to four.  For children ages 4 to 7, booster seats reduced injury risk by 59% compared to safety belts alone.  There are many people who may be unaware of the risk they are taking by letting their child ride in the front seat.  I know a lady who was hit almost head-on by another car, whose eight-year old son was in the front seat, and was injured by the airbag.  It wasn’t too serious; however, I really don’t think she knew that he shouldn’t be riding in the front.  Kids want to ride “shotgun,” but it should become a habit to have them ride in the rear seat. 

Another safety tip: a child within reach of a seat belt may become entangled if he or she pulls the seat belt all the way out and wraps the belt around the head, neck or waist.  Never let the child lie down or sleep on the vehicle seat instead of being properly buckled in.  A good rule of thumb is to buckle unused seat belts.  One should never leave a child unattended in a vehicle and also teach children that seat belts are not toys. 

We’ve come a long way from the car seats we used when our kids were small.  Car seats fit in the middle of the front seat, hooked over the seats.  If they were not properly strapped in, they were like little projectiles!  I can also remember the times they would stand next to the driver, and we’d throw our right arm out to protect them if we thought someone was going to run into us.  It’s an old habit that I bet many of you remember, too.  If not, those were the “good old days!”  Our little ones were not as safe as they are now, thanks to child safety seats and other safety measures, such as child-door locks. 

You may check online at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website to find a child safety seat inspection locator in your area.  Take the time to ensure that the seat you are using for your little passenger is secure. 

Source: CDC, NHTSA