Every year, thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes. As the parent, it is your responsibility to make sure your child is protected while inside a vehicle by properly using her car seat.
What some parents may not realize is the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends all children ride in a rear-facing car seat until the age of 2 or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer. Three types of rear-facing car seats are available.
Once a child has reached the highest weight or length allowed by the manufacturer of a rear-facing only seat, she should continue riding rear-facing in either a convertible seat or a three-in-one seat.
When installing a car seat, make sure to place it in a back seat of the vehicle and follow the instructions given for the specific seat you have. You can install the car seat using either the vehicle’s seat belt or the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system.
When your child is ready to use a forward-facing car seat, make sure to select one that can be anchored with a harness. You will want to select a seat that your child can ride in at least to age 4. Make sure the seat is installed tightly and the harness fits the child snugly.
Once your child’s weight or height exceeds the limit for his forward-facing seat, you should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly. Typically, this will be when your child is between the ages of 8 and 12 and has reached a height of 4 feet 9 inches.
After the age of 12, your child typically will be large enough and old enough to use the vehicle’s seat belt alone. Make sure she uses the lap and shoulder seat belts for the best protection. It’s important to remember the safest place for all children younger than age 13 is to ride in the back seat.
Susan Matherly is director at A Children’s Place, a service of Ephraim McDowell Health. She has a bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science and a master’s degree in public health education. She can be contacted at (859) 236-7176.