Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among children ages 3-14. Nearly half of those deaths involved a child who was completely unrestrained. Using proper child restraints has been found to reduce the risk by as much as 71%. However, nearly ¾ of child restraints are either used or installed incorrectly.
So what is the proper restraint system for your child? The answer to this question depends on the age, height, and weight of your child, in addition to what fits in your vehicle. Look at the instructions on the car seat to determine the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements for your particular seat. Keep your child restrained in that seat for as long as he or she fits those requirements. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) makes the following general recommendations on the proper types of restraints based on age (note: all restraints listed are meant to be used in the back seat):
- – Under 1 year: rear-facing infant seat
- – 1-3 years: rear-facing seat for as long as the child fits the height/weight requirements; after hitting the proper height/weight, a forward-facing car seat with a harness
- – 4-7 years: forward-facing car seat with harness until your child exceeds the height/weight standards on the seat, then move your child into a booster seat.
- – 8-12 years: remain in booster seat until big enough for a seat belt to fit properly – lap belt should fit snugly over thighs (not stomach) and the shoulder strap should fit snugly over the chest and shoulders (not the neck).
The NHTSA recommends that any child under the age of 13, regardless of size, ride in the back seat. If you are not sure how to properly use the car seat, find a Child Safety Seat Inspection location in your area.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws in place mandating minimum child restraints. In Minnesota, all children under age 8 must ride in a federally approved car seat or booster seat until the child is 4’9” or taller. All such seats must be installed and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Infants (less than 20 lbs. and under age 1) must be in a rear-facing safety seat. Proper child restraint is, legally speaking, the driver’s responsibility. Failure to comply with the law may result in a petty misdemeanor fine of $50. A driver may be pulled over for suspected non-compliance with these laws. These rules apply to both residents and non-residents of Minnesota. (Minn. Stat. § 169.685)
While every state does have a law mandating some type of child safety restraint in motor vehicles, these are only minimum requirements. For your child safety, make sure that he/she is properly restrained. If you’re not sure, visit one of the many Child Safety Seat Inspection locations.
Think about it.