Even though crash deaths have declined in the past decade by 43%, they still remain the leading cause of death for children. Most of these deaths can be prevented by simply buckling up. Unfortunately, only two states (Tennessee and Wyoming) have child passenger restraint laws. These require a car seat or booster for children 8 years and under. Numbers have shown that if there is a law that requires a car seat or booster seat up to age 7 or 8, usage tripled and deaths declined by 17%. In Texas, the law covers children in car or booster seats up to ages 6-7. Since car riding begins at birth, here is how you can keep your child safe.
All children under the age of 12 need to sit in the back seat and in the middle if possible. Always, always read the vehicle’s owner and car seat manual before installing a car seat. Some car seats must be installed using your vehicle’s LATCH system. LATCH stands for lower anchors and tethers for children. This can be used instead of the seat belt and in some cars, it is easier to use. Below is a diagram for the LATCH system. The top tether is important for forward facing seats. The lower anchor is located in the back seat and all car seats have attachments that fasten to these anchors.
Not all car seats are created equal. Parents and caregivers need to know how to use car seats, booster seats, and seat belts correctly. Infants and toddlers need to be buckled into a rear facing car seat. This starts with their first ride home from the hospital all the way until they are 2 years old or meet the weight and height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. There are three types of rear facing car seats: rear-facing only, convertible, and 3-in-1. Rear facing only should be used for infants weighing up to 22 to 40 lbs., are small with carrying handles, and usually come with a base that the seat clicks in and out of. Convertible seats can be used longer by your child because they can be converted from rear facing to forward facing. These seats do not come with carrying handles and are bulkier. Convertible seats are ideal for bigger babies and toddlers as their weight and height limits are higher. 3-in-1 seats are just what they sound like, three seats in one. They can be used as rear or forward facing as well as a belt positioning booster. This seat is meant to grow with your child and is often big in size. It is important to make sure that it fits in your car before purchasing.
Part II will be about ages 2 and older.