Car safety seats for children are specially designed restraints for use in motor vehicles.
Motor vehicle deaths in children can be significantly reduced by the use of car safety seats. In developed countries, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 6 and 27 years old.
The safest place in a car for a child under 13 years of age is in the back seat while using a safety device (car seat or seat belt).
The middle of the rear seat is the best place for infants and younger children in car seats.
If a child must ride in the front seat, the seat should be moved as far back as possible to minimize the risk that the child will crash into the windshield or be suffocated by an air bag. The air bag on the passenger side should be turned off, if possible, when a child is placed in the front seat.
Types of car safety seatsThe type of car safety seat used depends on the age and weight of the child. Infants should be placed in rear-facing infant seats that have built-in restraining belts. The infant seat should be fastened into the car with the car's seat belt in the manner specified by the care seat manufacturer.
An infant should be placed in this type of safety seat for an auto ride until he or she has reached a weight of 20 pounds or until he or she is at least one year old and is able to sit alone without support. Infants should never be held in the lap or arms of an adult passenger—even if the adult is wearing a seat belt.
In a crash at as little as 30 mph, the forces are great enough to severely harm the child. The infant could be thrown through the windshield, crushed between the adult and the dashboard, or suffocated by an airbag if it deploys.
Children between 20 and 40 pounds should sit upright in a forward-facing safety seat.
Children more than 40 inches tall and weighing more than 40 pounds should ride in a booster safety seat. This device should be used unless the child is large enough that the standard lap and shoulder belts fit properly. If the shoulder strap runs across the child's neck rather than the shoulder, the child still needs to use a booster seat. Children should not be allowed to place the shoulder strap behind their back or under their arms.
Safety tipsIt is important to follow the manufacturer's installation instructions for all types of car safety seats. Some car models have only lap/shoulder belts for some of the seats. In these models, only older children should use the lap/shoulder belts. Younger children should sit in places where there are lap-only belts.
Air bags in the front passenger seat are dangerous to children seated in the front passenger seat. If the vehicle has no rear seat, then a child should be positioned as far back from the air bag as possible. Air bags are also very hazardous to infants in rear-facing safety seats. They should never ride in a front seat with an air bag—or the air bag should be turned off.
Teaching safety to childrenIt is important that children learn early that they should not ride in a car without wearing a seat belt. Most hospitals insist that parents of newborn infants get an infant safety seat. Parents must bring the seat to the hospital before they are allowed to take the baby home.
As infants become toddlers, they become more active and may be less patient with being restrained. If being buckled up in the car becomes routine, it will be easier for the toddler to accept it. Keeping trips short and taking frequent stretching breaks will make longer trips easier for young children. Children should be praised for good behavior in the car. This helps reinforce that behavior.
Parents should also always wear their own seat belts. This provides a powerful role model. If a young child becomes fussy while riding in a car, the driver should stop. The child should not be allowed out of the car safety seat while the car is moving.
When children ride with people other than their parents, they should bring their car safety seats along. The driver should know how to properly install the seat in his or her own car.
In some places, taxi drivers will not take an infant unless the parent provides a safety seat to be belted in with the taxi's seat belt.
In hot weather, it is important to make sure that the metal seat belt or safety seat buckle has cooled before putting the child into it. A hot buckle can burn a child.
As with many other things in life, a little prevention goes a long way. The use of infant seats and seat belts in cars has saved lives and prevented countless serious injuries.