As parents, one of our greatest responsibilities is to protect our children, and ensuring your children’s safety can be any action from holding their hands when crossing the street to knowing their whereabouts on a playground. At the top of a parent safety checklist should be to know and abide by proper car safety guidelines, and while your children might whine about their seating arrangements, their safety is far more important than their liking.
In the past decade, numerous studies have confirmed the importance of car seats and the value of protection they bring to your child, and in the car seat industry, four types of car seats are available. Rear-facing car seats feature a harness and will cradle the child to protect the neck and spinal region, and forward-facing car seats have a harness and tether to decrease the child’s forward motion. A booster seat lifts the child up from the seat so the seatbelt fits properly over the child’s body, and a seatbelt restrains the child by holding them back in proper position.
One of the largest misconceptions about car safety is when to make the switch from rear-facing to forward-facing to booster to backseat seatbelts to front seat seatbelts. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should stay rear-facing for as long as possible or at least until 2 years of age. Children should remain in booster seats until the seatbelt lies across their upper thighs and fits snug across their shoulders. Car seats have specific height and weight requirements listed on the back or sides and should be consulted for precise information. A general rule is rear-facing until age 2, forward-facing until age 5, and a booster seat until a seatbelt fits correctly, but each child is unique because of height and weight differences.
Each state has specific laws and fines regarding transporting children safely in a vehicle, and you should stay current with your state’s restrictions and also those of any state you will be driving in. To make certain your child is in the proper car seat, BabyCenter has an interactive tool based on your state and child’s weight and height to make certain your child is in the proper car seat.
Children cannot wait to move from the back seat to the front, but this decision should not be made lightly. They need to be both tall and heavy enough for the seatbelt to be effective during an accident, and the dangers of moving to the front seat too early include being thrown through the windshield and not sitting in the proper position for an airbag to work correctly. Because airbags inflate so rapidly, the impact alone can turn a 30 mph crash into what feels like a 200 mph crash. Children should be at least 4’9” and weight at least 80 pounds to switch from the back seat to the front seat, but just because your child meets the height and weight requirements does not mean you should allow the change. Most studies agree that 12 to 13 is the proper age to switch your child. Similar to keeping your child rear-facing for as long as possible, having your child remain in the back seat for as long as possible is the smartest decision.
Under certain circumstances, your child is safer in the front seat despite not meeting the height and weight requirements. For example, if your back seat seatbelts are broken or if the car seat will not properly install in the back seat, then the front seat with a working seatbelt is better than the back seat with no seatbelt at all. As the parent, you should use your best judgment, but as a general practice, the back seat is the safest place for your child.
For children, it can be hard to understand the importance of remaining in a car seat and sitting in the back seat, but as parents, it is our job to teach them the significance of proper car safety. We need to make sure they understand the importance of abiding by proper car safety practices no matter who is driving. Keeping up with safety requirements might seem tiresome, but when you think of your precious children’s faces, their smiles make it all worthwhile.
Valerie enjoys reading, traveling, baking, and playing with her puppy, Emma. Some of her favorites include Taylor Swift, Sprite, and Grey’s Anatomy, and she believes in making every moment count.