Some state have been re-thinking their child safety seat laws and changing them to include older kids. Here’s what you need to know…
Every state requires infants to ride in car seats. Now some states have changed their laws and require older children to be in car seats. California, for instance, just recently made a change that now requires children to ride in a safety or booster seat until they are least six years old or weigh at least 60 pounds.
Still, many states only require children weighing 40 pounds or less to ride in a car seat. The problem is that seatbelts don’t fit most 40-pound children correctly. And with more children killed as passengers in car crashes than from any other injury, you can see why it’s important to have your child properly restrained. This requires choosing the right car seat and using it properly.
How do you select the right seat? What’s the best car seat out there?
Well, there’s no such thing as the “best” car seat for everyone. The best seat is the one that fits your child right and can be installed properly in your car. Prices fluctuate, and higher prices do not necessarily mean a car seat is better or safer to use.
For toddlers and older children, you can choose from convertible seats, combination seats, travel vests, built-in car seats, and booster seats.
Convertible Car Seats are bigger and heavier than infant seats. Though you can use this while your child is an infant, they can also be turned facing forward for toddlers. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends this for toddlers who are at least a year old and weighing 20 – 40 lbs. Many convertible seats have two or more buckle positions and adjust as your child grows.
Combination Seats are always used front-facing and recommended for children at least 1 year of age who weigh at least 20 lbs. These seats come with an internal harness system. When removed, it converts to a belt-positioning booster. The booster position is best suited for children over 40 lbs.
Booster Seats come in two types: 1) belt-positioning which uses the car’s lap-shoulder belts and 2) shield boosters. Manufacturers do not certify shield boosters for use by children who weigh more than 40 lbs. For these children, the shield may be removed and the booster can be used with the car’s lap-shoulder belt.
Travel Vests are another option if your car has only lap belts. Your car may also be equipped with built-in car seats. These should be used for children over one year of age and weighing at least 20 lbs. Make sure to check the weight and height limits, as they vary.
It’s not enough to just select the right car seat for your child, you’ve got to install and use it properly. Here are some tips to help you:
• Always use a car seat and teach your children the good habit of “buckling up.”
• Read instructions carefully and make sure the seat is installed properly.
• If your car has a passenger side airbag, never place a child in a rear-facing car seat in the front seat. Most modern cars come with airbags, so it’s best to keep your child in the back seat.
• Keep the harness or buckle snug and make sure the clip or buckle is in place. The straps should lay flat.
When is my child ready for a regular seat belt?
You should keep your child in a safety seat as long as possible. However, when your child is big enough, he/she can wear a regular seat belt as long as it fits properly. The shoulder belt should lie across the chest and be snug across the thighs. Your child should be able to sit against the seat back with feet hanging down when legs are bent at the knees.
Individual state laws differ as to when a child is considered big enough to use a regular seat belt. Check with your local department of motor vehicles office to find out about your state’s rules concerning child passenger safety.