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Tips for Proper Use of Child Passenger Restraints

Children are smaller and more vulnerable to injuries if they are involved in a car accident, and it makes sense to buckle them in securely when going out for a drive. An important question, though, is whether you are using an age- and size-appropriate child restraint for your child. Child passenger restraints include car seats, booster seats and seat belts, and using the proper one for your child may make all the difference in the event of an accident.

According to a recent study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths of children in motor vehicle accidents have decreased but such fatalities remain a leading cause of death in children. An analysis of Fatality Analysis Reporting data ranging from 2002 to 2011 found that more than 9,000 children died as a result of crashes during this time period. When it comes to the effectiveness of child restraints, the study also found that one in three children who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2011 were not buckled up.

California law requires children under the age of eight to be secured in a car seat or a booster seat in the back seat, unless they are 4’9” tall or taller, in which case they may be secured by a seat belt in the back seat. Concerned parents, however, may want to consider the following tips from the CDC on using age- and size-appropriate child restraints:

  • Always secure your child using car seats, boosters and seat belts in the back seat, no matter how quick a trip you’ll be taking.
  • Car seats should be installed according to the manufacturer’s manual. Parents who require help with proper installation should consult a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
  • Children from birth to age two should be secured in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the upper height or weight limits of the seat.
  • Children from age two until at least five should be secured in a forward-facing car seat until they reach the upper height or weight limits of the seat.
  • Children from age five and up should be secured in a booster seat until a seat belt fits them properly. This typically occurs when children reach 57” (or 4’9”) in height.
  • All children up to the age of 12 should be buckled in the back seat.

How do you know when a seat belt fits your child properly? The lap belt should fit across the thighs rather than the stomach, and the shoulder belt should rest across your child’s chest, and not his or her neck.

One additional tip: be a good role model for your children, and remember to buckle up yourself.