man putting baby girl in the car. Father fastening seat harness of infant car seat

A Guide to Child Car Safety

Car accidents happen, and children are particularly vulnerable to injuries and worse.

While you cannot prevent every accident, you can minimize the risks of your child being in a serious injury by taking a few precautions.

Using car seats, booster seats, and seat belts goes a long way to keeping children safe when traveling by car. 

man putting baby girl in the car. Father fastening seat harness of infant car seat

Tips for Reducing the Risks of Children Being Injured in Car Accidents

In the United States, car accidents are one of the foremost causes of death in children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, more than 63,000 children sustained injuries in auto accidents. 

In the same year, 607 children were killed in car crashes. Out of the 607 who were killed, 231 of them were not wearing seatbelts.

Understanding how important buckling up is saves lives. Knowing the type of seat your child should be in and how to buckle it properly is critical to the safety of your children or the children in your care. 

Always Buckle Up

No matter the age, or the length of the trip, if you get into the car, you buckle up. Parents and caregivers should see that the child is in the proper seat for their size and age and then make sure it is properly installed.

When it is time to buckle your child into their car seat, make sure that the straps are tight and the buckles are correctly fastened. 

Rear Facing Car Seats

All infants and toddlers should ride in rear-facing car seats. These seats come with a five-point harness.

Your child should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they have surpassed the maximum weight or height for the seat. This offers optimal protection for small children. 

Typically, children age out of rear-facing car seats between the ages of two and four, depending on their size.

You can check the specific weight and height limits for your car seat by looking at the manual or labels attached to the seat. If those are not available, look for the model online and find the information there. 

Rear-facing car seats do not go in the front seat. If the airbags in the front passenger side were to inflate, a young child could be catastrophically injured or even killed. 

Forward Facing Car Seats

Once a child outgrows their previous rear-facing seat, they will move into a forward-facing car seat.

They will be most safe in these until around age five. Forward-facing car seats also have a five-point harness and also include a top tether. These tethers anchor the top of the seat to the car’s seat. 

Forward-facing car seats also belong in the backseat. Airbags are a risk for children riding in the front.

Read your car seat’s manual or labels to determine what the maximum height and weight for that particular seat. Your child should ride in this forward-facing seat until they exceed those height and weight limits. 

Booster Seats

Once the child in your care outgrows their forward-facing car seat, they will move to a booster seat. Booster seats should be used until the car’s seatbelt properly fits them.

To determine whether the seat belt fits your child correctly, check that the lap belt sits across their upper thighs rather than their stomach.

The shoulder belt should not cross their face or neck and should not be off of their shoulders. It should fit across the shoulders and chest. 

Usually, children begin to use a regular seatbelt somewhere between the ages of nine and 12.

Check each vehicle that your child might travel in since all vehicles are not the same size and configuration. One vehicle might require a booster seat, while in another car, it might not be necessary. 

Always wear a seatbelt once the booster seat is no longer necessary. No matter how short the trip or how big the child, seatbelts save lives.

Car Safety Takeaways

Parents and caregivers do everything they can to protect their children.

Being informed about how to properly buckle your child in before pulling out of the driveway is critically important. 

  • Children who are 12 and younger should always ride in the back seat. 
  • The middle seat is the safest in the vehicle. If possible, position your child in the middle seat.
  • Airbags can save the lives of adults but can be deadly to children. Do not put your child in the front seat of your car, especially if they are in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Use car seats, boosters, and seat belts each time you get into the car, no matter the length of the trip. 
  • Wear your seatbelt as well. It sets a good example for the children who ride with you, and if an accident happens, you are likely to be safer and can come to the aid of the children riding with you more easily.
  • If you or your child have been injured in a car accident, reach out to a personal injury lawyer to seek compensation for the damages you’ve suffered.