As we travel near and far to spend the holidays with our loved ones, we spend seemingly endless time preparing for each little journey. We make sure that each present is perfectly wrapped and stacked in the back of our car. We carefully swaddle hot casserole dishes and crock pots for their chilly ride to the party, and make extra sure that they are firmly upright before taking off. We buckle our young ones into their car seats, and off we go—safe and sound!
What may shock you, however, is that your child may have received the short end of the stick in your meticulous car loading routine. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 75 percent of all car seats are improperly used. Take time this holiday season to ensure that you have the right seat, the right fit, and the right installation—it could save a life.
Why a Properly Functioning Car Seat Matters
Car seats are not just for infants and toddlers anymore. As our knowledge of auto safety and crash statistics has grown, it has now become commonly recognized that children up to the age of 13 can benefit greatly from a variety of car seats. The NHTSA states that the leading cause of death for children between the ages of one and 13 years of age is auto accidents, and car seat use can help ensure that your child is not included in that statistic.
Not just any car seat will do, however. There are now three stages of car seats that are appropriate, based on your child’s height and weight:
- Rear-facing car seat: Rear-facing seats are the safest option for babies, as the seat cradles the entire body during impact, rather than placing stress on the infant’s neck and head. Each manufacturer has different height and weight limits for its seats, but this is the safest option for as long as your child is within the size limits.
- Forward-facing car seat: For toddlers and smaller children, the safety harness system in the forward-facing car seat is the safest option. Most seats offer a five-point harness system that distributes crash forces to the strongest points of the child’s body, including the pelvis and sternum. Make sure that the harness is properly adjusted for your child’s shoulder height.
- Booster seat: The relative newcomer to the bunch, booster seats are not as well-known, but they are equally as important. Once your child outgrows her forward-facing car seat, she is still much smaller than the adults that vehicle seats and seatbelts are designed for. This means a seatbelt would be crossing the child’s neck and stomach, which can cause serious injuries. The booster seat lifts the child into a position where the seatbelt crosses properly across the pelvis and chest area, offering the most protection.
Once you have determined that you have the right car seat for the job, make sure that the seat is properly installed—many local police and fire stations offer installation inspections and assistance, so take advantage of their services for your safest holiday yet!