Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children 3 to 14 years old in the U.S. Michigan law requires that all children under 8 years old and less than 4'9" be properly restrained in a child safety seat. Child safety restraints have a misuse rate of as high as 97%, according to Safe Kids (a division of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration/NHTSA). Fortunately, there is something you can do to reduce your child’s risk of injury or death in a collision. Making sure that your child is properly restrained in your vehicle EVERY time you ride in the car will greatly reduce their risk of injury, should a crash occur. There are several factors to consider when deciding how you will do this:
1. SELECT A POSITION IN THE VEHICLE: The safest place for children (especially children under 13) is always in the back seat. Most severe crashes that occur are frontal collisions, so the further back in the vehicle your child is the safer they will be. Refer to your vehicle owner's manual for the safest position in your vehicle.
2. KEEP CHILDREN AWAY FROM AIRBAGS: Airbags can cause injury to small children. Avoid placing them near airbags. If a child must be placed in the front seat (for example, if riding in a pickup), move the seat as far away from the dash as possible and turn off the airbag.
3. SELECT THE APPROPRIATE SAFETY SEAT FOR YOUR CHILD: There are several types of car seats for children and it is important that you know which one is appropriate for your child, based on their height and weight. Always refer to the manufacturer (owner's manual) to determine if the seat is appropriate for your child.
BIRTH TO 12 MONTHS: Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
1 – 3 YEARS: Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
4 – 7 YEARS: Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat (a belt-positioning booster for as long as possible) but still in the back seat.
8 – 12 YEARS: Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.
* A REAR FACING safety seat is the best seat for your young child to use. It has a harness, and in a crash cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child's fragile neck and spinal cord.
* A FORWARD FACING safety seat has a harness and tether and limits your child's forward movement during a crash.
* A BOOSTER SEAT positions the seat belt so that it fits properly over the stronger parts of your child's body. (I.E. It fits across the hip bone instead of across the abdominal area, which is all soft tissue and organs.)
* A SEAT BELT should lie across the upper thigh and be snug across the shoulder and chest to restrain the child safely in a crash. It should not rest on the stomach area or across the neck.
* MORE THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN SELECTING A SEAT:
- Know the seat's history. Never buy or borrow a seat from a person you don't know or trust. You need to know if the seat has ever been involved in a serious crash. If it has, do not use it. A seat's structure can be compromised in a severe crash and may not offer your child the proper protection.
- Look for an expiration date. Believe it or not, almost all safety seats have expiration dates. Check the manufacturer sticker on the safety seat if you're borrowing a seat from someone you know and make sure it is not expired. Most seats expire approx. 5 years from the date of manufacture. So, while many hand-me-downs are fabulous and save you money, this is one exception to the rule.
- Make sure you secure your child properly in the seat. Refer to the owner's manual for the safety to seat to show you how to secure your child properly in the seat. This includes placement of harnesses, buckles and straps. This is a very important step!
5. MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS PROPERLY RESTRAINED EVERY TIME: If your children are riding with someone else in a vehicle, make sure the driver they are with knows how to secure them properly. Keep in mind that not everyone knows how to install and use safety seats correctly, especially grandparents who may be a bit out of practice or perhaps have never used them at all! Don't be afraid to insist that the driver knows how to secure your child safely. You won't regret telling them...... but you might regret it if you don't.
6. REGISTER YOUR SAFETY SEAT: By registering your safety seat, you will be notified of any safety recalls that may be issued for your seat. You can do this by completing the registration form upon purchase, or click this link to register online. REGISTER NOW!
For more information on child passenger safety, please visit: https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/child-safety.