Keeping kids safe in the car
One of the smartest things you can do as a parent is to make sure your child is safe in your car.
Each year throughout the United States, several hundred children under the age of 13 die in car crashes. Tens of thousands more suffer injuries including permanent brain damage and spinal cord harm. Traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 5 and 14, yet many deaths and injuries could be prevented by making sure children are properly restrained with seat belts or child-safety seats.
Be a good role model! Always buckle-up. And remember:
- Use a car seat, booster seat or seat belt for every trip, no matter how short.
- The back seat is the safest place for your young child. All children aged 12 and under should sit in the back seat, in safety seats or boosters.
- It is safest for very young children to stay in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, at least until age 2, and until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. This helps support the child’s head, neck and spine.
- Similarly, children who have graduated to a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness should use that seat as long as possible. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.
- Never place a rear-facing seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an active front passenger airbag. If the airbag inflates, it will hit the back of the car safety seat and could cause serious injury or death.
- After buckling up your child, make sure to test for a snug and secure fit.
- Always use proper car seats or boosters – never pillows, books or towels, which can slide around and increase the chance of injuries.
- When buying a car-seat or booster, make sure the label says it conforms to U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
- Never use a booster seat that has been in a crash. The seat may have defects that are not visible. Also avoid using seats that are more than ten years old. Safety standards may have changed.
- Even in winter, avoid putting your baby or child in a car-seat while wearing bulky clothing, since that can compress in a crash and leave the straps too loose, resulting in injuries. You can always put a coat or blanket around the child over the harness straps if necessary.
- Read the instructions for the child safety or booster seat before installing them. If the vehicle has only lap belts in the back seat, consider having shoulder belts installed by a dealer or repair shop.
- Remember to fill out and mail the registration card that comes with the safety or booster seat so you will be notified in case of a recall.
In California, it’s the law:
- All children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat.
- All children under 2 years old -- unless they weigh 40 or more pounds or are more than 40 inches tall – must ride in a rear-facing car seat.
- Children who are 8 years of age or 4’9” or taller may use a booster seat.
- Children over 8 years of age must wear a seat belt.