Here's a disturbing fact: Automotive accidents are the No. 1 killer of children 12 years of age and under.
But these worst-case scenarios are stymied when child safety seats are used properly. In fact, the risk of injury is slashed by over 80% when children are strapped in and their seats are correctly installed.
The following guidelines can serve as a roadmap to your kids' physical well-being when they're along for the ride:
- Best for kids ages 1 to 3.
- Reduces risk of neck injury.
- Hold children 50 pounds and under
- Best for kids ages 1 to 7.
- Harness that fits over children's shoulders cuts the chances of being hurt in a crash.
- Booster seats should be introduced as soon as child's current seat no longer fits.
- Best for ages 4 to 12.
- Seat helps to prop kids up slightly, so the car's seat belt fits correctly, where the top strap slides across the chest, not the neck.
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides yearly reports on the best booster seats available in stores.
Regular seat belt
- Best for children 8 and up
- Proven to significantly reduce the risk of death or injury in an accident, saving 13,000 lives per year.
- Bottom strap should fit across the upper thigh and the top across the middle of the chest.
While age range serves as a good guideline, it's better to go by your children's height and weight. Once they outgrow the seat they're in, it's time for a transition to one that fits. Additionally, child safety seats have expiration dates, usually six years after they're manufactured, so make sure you know when yours expires. Also, if you're in ever in an accident, replace your child's seat to ensure that its effectiveness hasn't been compromised. Don't forget that children need to stay in the backseat until they turn 13.
Finally, before you come to a decision on your child's safety seat, understand that your vehicle's interior features may not make for easy installation. Check your owner's manual to see what it says about child safety seats and if it recommends a particular brand. It should also have information on height and weight specifications. If you go to IIHS' website, you should be able to find details on its LATCH program, which is short for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. Restraints that are LATCH compatible have been proven to be more effective and easier to install correctly.
Take a look at our infographic below for a better understanding about the best type of seat for your child and how you can reduce their risk of injury in an accident.