Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in infants and children aged six months and over.
Although child car seats vary in design by manufacturer, every manufacturer must adhere to certain federal standards. To ensure your child’s car safety seat’s performance, read the manufacturers’ instructions with care.
Always use the car safety seat for every car ride, no matter how short the trip!
Then, learn more about how to secure your child’s car safety seat. We discuss:
- The LATCH system
- National Seat Check Saturday
- Child car safety seat state laws
What’s the LATCH system?
There are several different ways to secure child car safety seats to the vehicle you drive.
Depending upon your vehicle’s lap belts, lap and shoulder belts, or seat belt system, LATCH (which stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children”) helps vehicle owners to securely install the child safety seat.
Since September 2002, most vehicles have been manufactured with the LATCH system.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) helps drivers to protect child passengers.
Here are their recommendations:
- According to the NHTSA site, children up to one year in age should travel in car seats that place the child facing opposite the vehicle seat. (The AAP recommends all children under two be rear facing.)
- Children aged one to three years should remain in a backseat facing car safety seat until they exceed the maximum height and/or weight prescribed by the car safety seat manufacturer.
- Older, taller, and heavier children ride in a front seat facing child safety seat. All front seat facing car safety seats must have a harness for the one to three year-old passenger.
- Four to seven year-old passengers ride in front seat facing car safety seats (with harness) until they exceed the manufacturers’ weight and/or height limits.
- Older, taller, and heavier children graduate to a “booster seat.” The booster seat adds stability to the child passenger (still riding in the car’s backseat).
- Eight to 12 year-old children may believe they’re old enough to use a seat belt and shoulder harness system. Parents and other drivers should make sure that children in this age group are tall and heavy enough to fit into the seat belt and restraint system. The seat belt fits when it rests snugly at the upper thigh (instead of the stomach).
The shoulder belt must fit across the shoulder to chest region.
Child passengers should remain in the backseat for maximum safety.
Drivers may take advantage of certified car safety seat technicians in many states. Check your state and local listings for certified child car safety seat technicians.
When is National Seat Check Saturday?
Drivers with child passengers may have child’s car safety seats checked during Child Passenger Safety Week. During the Saturday of the Child Passenger Safety Week, drivers may have child safety seats checked for proper installation and adjustment at no cost!
What are child car seat safety laws?
Each state (and some territories, including Guam, the District of Columbia, Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas) has child car seat safety laws in place.
Most state laws say that children of all ages should ride in the backseat of the car. In addition, many states allow children (depending on age, height, and weight limits) to use the safety belt and seat belt restraint system in the vehicle.
Some 47 states and the District of Columbia make booster seats and child car safety equipment a legal requirement. Booster seats help keep older children (between front seat faced car seats and adult seat belt systems) safe.
South Dakota, Arizona, and Florida are the three states without booster seat laws in effect.
Some states require school buses to have seat belts. These states include:
- New York
- New Jersey
Depending upon the state in which the driver receives a car seat violation ticket, a first-time offender can be fined up to $500 per citation.
Driver’s license points may apply in some states as an additional deterrent to breaking child car seat safety laws.
Check your state’s child car safety seat laws to make sure your car or vehicle is legally compliant. Child’s car safety seat laws rely upon years of research about child car safety.