Car safety is easy for an adult: buckle up, obey the traffic laws and that's about the best you can do. But when you're a first-time parent, you're responsible for a child. You need to take car safety seriously, and it could reduce the risk of death if an accident occurs. The IIHS found that 25% of unintentional injury deaths in children 13 and under are caused by motor vehicle crashes.
Proper safety can reduce the risk of child death drastically, and child restraint laws are present in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The issue is that parents often stop restraining their children too early. Leaving a child unrestrained seems to occur after four years of age, but you may be breaking the law.
A few tips for first-time parents to reduce the risk of injury or death and adhere to the law are:
1. Learn Restraint Requirements and Limitations
Your state's laws may be different from my state's laws regarding child restraints. While all states have laws in place, there are two key variables that may change from one region to the next:
Laws may also differ based on the presence of frontal airbags. You can view the laws of every state here.
2. Pay Attention to Your Car Seat Limitation
Car seat manufacturers are very good at ensuring that their car seats are able to meet the 40-pound weight limit for rear-facing seats. While this limit is a recommendation, some will recommend that parents stop using rear-facing car seats between the weight range of 35 to 45 pounds.
The safest car seats often have higher weight limits of 50 pounds to allow for a child to remain in their car seat longer.
Car seats often list their minimum and maximum weight and height ranges.
3. Consider Convertible Car Seats
Babies grow up fast. When you have a typical car seat, your child will grow out of it by as young as four, and then you'll need to move on to a front-facing seat or a booster seat. Convertible models offer the most versatility because they can be converted from rear-facing to front-facing or even a booster seat.
Not only does this save you money, but you'll always have the right seat available for your child's height and weight.
4. Remember These Car Safety Tips
Automobile accidents aren't the only time you have to be worried about your children. Life gets hectic, and one forgetful moment for a parent can lead to deadly consequences for their children. A few additional car safety tips include:
Never leave your child in the vehicle unattended.
Always check behind the vehicle for a child – back-over crashes put children most at risk.
Provide distractions for your child in the backseat to ensure that you can pay attention to the road.
Use the LATCH system in your vehicle (it has been available in all vehicles since 2002).
You also have the option of having your car seat installation inspected. You can have an inspection performed by a Child Passenger Safety Technician. You want to make sure that the technician is properly certified. The Department of Transportation has a Vehicle Safety Hotline that you can call to find a certified technician in your area.