California law requires children 7 and younger to be secured into a car or booster seat in the rear of a vehicle. Children taller than 4’9” or over the age of 8 may use a standard vehicle seat belt if it fits them properly. The belt fits properly if the lap portion of the belt sits on the hips while touching the upper portion of the thigh while the diagonal portion of the belt crosses the center of the child’s chest. If the belt does not fit properly the child must be secured in a booster or car seat.
When a child is required to use a car or booster seat it is important to ensure they are properly secured in the seat. Unfortunately, there are a few common mistakes parents make when securing their child in a car seat. These mistakes can be dangerous and pose serious safety risks to the child. Here are the top five child seat safety tips to keep in mind when securing a child in the back seat.
- Keep Car Seats Rear Facing. When a child outgrows their infant car seat parents may want to reposition the larger convertible seat to face the front of the vehicle. Studies show that children are at greater risk of injury in front-facing child seats. Most convertible seats are designed to hold children weighing between 35 and 50 pounds. Keep children in these seats rear-facing until they outgrow them. Children under the age of 2 should not be placed in a front-facing car seat.
- Ensure Straps are Snug. Strapping a child into a car seat won’t do much good if the child is not properly secured. Tighten straps against the child’s body to ensure they are firmly and comfortably secured into the seat. Note, it is important to remove bulky jackets or coats before securing the straps.
- Anchor Front-Facing Seats. Front facing car seats should be tethered to an anchor in the backseat of the vehicle. Top anchors provide the best support, though not all vehicles are equipped with these on each seat. It may be necessary to research your vehicle and learn about how the manufacturer suggests anchoring front-facing car seats. If not properly anchored a child could sustain significant brain or spinal cord injuries. Tethering the seat can reduce a child’s range of motion by up to 6 inches.
- Use the Center Seat When Possible. The center of the backseat is the safest place to install a car seat. If the car is in an accident the child will be less likely to sustain injuries by hitting the seat in front of them.
- Upgrade Car Seats When Necessary. Car seats are not built to last forever. Instead, they are made of plastic materials that will degrade over time. Brittle plastic will not protect your child in the event of a crash. While used or previously owned car seats may save money, there is no guarantee about the level of protection they will offer your child. If a car seat is between 5 and 8 years old it may be time to consider investing in a new(er) one.
Car seats provide extra protection for children who are not old or tall enough to properly use a standard vehicle seat belt. It is important, however, to ensure the car seat is properly tethered and anchored to the back seat and that children are safely buckled into the seat. Serious injuries to your child can be avoided if proper techniques are utilized.
This article is provided by Injury Trial Lawyers, APC. For more information, please visit www.getinjuryanswers.com.