- Three out of four car seats have some type of issue, whether it's the wrong kind or wrong positioning
- For children aged between one and 13, car accidents are the leading cause of preventable death
- In 2017, nearly 700 children aged 12 and younger were killed in car accidents while riding as passengers
- An infant's risk of fatal injury in a car crash is reduced by 71 percent with the proper car seat
This means that a lot more could be done to prevent injury and death for children riding in passenger vehicles. The first line of defense is having the proper car seat. Because there are so many options to choose from, knowing which one is right for your child can be confusing.
Four Types of Car Seats
There are four types of car seats. In order to choose the right car seat for your child, you need to go by your child's size and age. The four different types are as follows:
Prenatal might seem like an odd inclusion, but pregnant women also need to know how to properly ride in a car. About 3,000 lost pregnancies occur each year as a result of car accidents, and a large number of pregnant women do not wear seatbelts due to discomfort. In order to prevent this, it's important for pregnant women to wear seatbelts.
You might not realize that there's actually an existing product called a pregnancy seatbelt positioner. These positioners position the seatbelt in a way where it's more comfortable on your belly. There are three types of positioners to look for:
- Positioners that keep the lap belt beneath your belly
- Positioners that use an anchor point between your legs and keep it away from your belly
- Positioners that use a cushion between the baby bump and belt
Rear-Facing Car Seats
Let's move onto rear-facing car seats, which are for children up until at least two years of age. They can still be used from ages three to four, and this is actually considered ideal according to experts. However, it does highly depend on your child's height and weight.
In order to get a more specific idea of what type of car seat to select, you may want to pay a visit to the NHTSA car seat tool. This allows you to enter your child's date of birth as well as their height and weight to find out what you should be using.
Why should very young children use rear-facing seats? The reason is that the car seat then supports the child's neck and back. A person's spine is largely responsible for protecting against the trauma of a crash, and young children have underdeveloped and fragile spinal areas.
If a young child is only restrained by a seatbelt harness, then their head and neck are going to absorb most of the crash stress. Take a look at the following facts:
An adult's head is about six percent of their body weight
A nine-month-old child's head is 25 percent of their body weight
Instead of ossified bone, a toddler's head and neck area are attached through cartilage, which is far more fragile. It's easy to see how young children get badly injured or killed during car crashes due to improper seating.
There are three different types of rear-facing seats that you can use:
- A portable seat designed for infants
- A full-size, rear-facing convertible seat that can be turned into a forward-facing seat when the child gets bigger
- A comprehensive seat that can be converted from rear to forward to belt-positioning with the child's age and size
Forward-Facing Car Seats
Usually, kids fully outgrow a rear-facing seat by about ages five or six. Sometimes it's sooner depending on their height and weight. These seats face forward and use a harness and tether system to control a child's forward movement during a car crash.
Like rear-facing seats, front-facing seats come in the convertible, combination and all-in-one seats. That means they can start out rear-facing, turn into forward-facing and then be used as a booster seat at the oldest stage.
Another option with forward-facing seats is the RideSafer travel vest. This vest allows you to position the seat belt properly on your child, thanks to the integrated belt guides.
The term belt-positioning booster is often used, which can be confusing, but it's not totally accurate since products like the RideSafer do the same thing without a booster. This stage of car seat is what you'll want when your child reaches about eight years of age and up to about 12 years of age.
The purpose of a booster is to give your child more height so that the seat belt can more properly fit. On the other hand, the purpose of a travel vest is to bring the seat belt down to fit your child's height. One of the difficulties with boosters is that your child might find it uncomfortable and move the seat belt out of proper position.
A travel vest obviously keeps this from happening due to the guides, which move with your child when they lean over or squirm.
Seat Belt Only Position
Once your child can pass the five-step test, which is usually by the time they reach about 4'9 in height, they can generally ride in the standard position like an adult. State laws vary, but the average age for this height is about 12. It's still recommended that children under the age of 13 should ride in the back of a vehicle and not the front.
Car Seats in Trucks
If you're like a growing number of Americans, your family vehicle might be a pickup truck. Many modern pickup trucks have large rear seats that are not much different from an SUV. However, if you have a smaller pickup truck that only has an extended cab, then your situation calls for a different approach.
According to statistics, the injury risk to kids riding in the back of a compact truck is five times greater than any other type of vehicle. You can install car seats in the back if the seat cushions fully support the seat. If you have a forward-facing seat in the back of a truck, you can reduce injury risk by making sure the seat is tethered.
The last resort is to install the car seat in the front of the truck. If you must do this, then it's important that you switch off the passenger airbag according to your owner's manual. In general, it's not a good idea to transport a child in a truck without a rear seat.
What To Look For
Even though there are so many options to choose from, you can use the previously mentioned tool to narrow down the right seat for your child's height, age and weight. However, you'll also need to make sure that it fits your vehicle. It's important to remember too that all car seats have to meet the same standards, whether they're cheap or expensive.
The law requires labeling on all car seats to show what stage it fits and what the limits are. However, this won't let you know if it fits your vehicle. That means you need to bring your vehicle to the retailer and test the seat before buying it.
Once you've ensured that it fits properly and securely, then you can make the purchase.