It's National Child Passenger Safety Week in America, and we should all remember to ensure the well-being of children on the road, whether we're just third-party motorists or parents driving their most precious cargo. One of the foremost issues in child passenger safety is the proper use of car seats - to this day, many parents are unaware of the seating requirements outlined by regulators to help keep children out of harm's way.
Because children's physiology differs from that of us grown-ups, they can be affected differently by vehicle impacts and collisions, making them more vulnerable to accidents that might only hurt an adult to a lesser degree. Give yourself a quick pop quiz: do you know the different types of car seats recommended for kids in different age ranges?
- Birth to 3: It's recommended by specialists at the National Highway Traffic Administration to keep children under age 3 in rear-facing car seats (only in the car's back seat) for as long as possible to maximize safety. This is absolutely necessary for infants under age 1.
- 4-7: The NHTSA states that for 4-to-7-year-olds, a forward-facing car seat, complete with a harness and tether, is fine for their size. However, once your child outgrows the forward-facing seat, they can then sit in a lower booster seat that works in conjunction with the car's seatbelt. The seatbelt should stretch over the upper thighs instead of the waist and across the chest instead of the neck. Even though they're growing, children should remain in the back seat.
- 8-12: When your child outgrows the booster seat sometime in the 8-12 range, they can then transfer to a normal passenger seat and seatbelt. It's still recommended that children at this age sit in the back - they're safer there.