car seats and seat beltsIf you were born before the ‘70s, you can probably remember hopping in the front seat of your parents’ car at the wee age of 7 with your cousins piled atop each other in the back seat. Back then, no one worried about car seats and seat belts. Although the world may have felt a little “freer,” we cannot deny the reasons behind strict seat belt regulations. Seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45 percent, and cut the risk of serious injury by 50 percent.

Reports show that for every five children killed in a US car crash, at least one was was not restrained or was inadequately restrained. Out of 2,900 automobile deaths between 2010 and 2014, most children killed were under the age of 15. Child vehicular fatalities are highest in  the South, with Texas leading the nation as the state with the most vehicular child fatalities.

A study at UT Southwestern concluded that even a 10% improvement in child restraint use in vehicles would prevent about 232 deaths a year, or more than 1,100 over five years. With motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death of Americans aged 1-54, it is imperative that you take proper precautions to keep you and your children safe.

How We Can Create a Safer Culture Through Car Seats and Seat Belts?

States should:

  • Make seat belt laws a priority. These laws are already proven to increase seatbelt and car seat use and , thereby reduce automotive deaths. Include fines for failure to wear seat belts and do not give backseat riders a free pass.
  • Train police and state troopers to enforce all seat belt laws.
  • Implement awareness campaigns to educate the public on the importance of vehicular safety.

Pediatricians, hospitals, and the health community should:

  • Remind parents about the importance of using car seats and seat belts.
  • Encourage all patients to make wearing a seatbelt a habit.
  • Wear seat belts themselves and encourage their colleagues to do the same.
  • Train new parents on proper use and installation of car seats.

Parents and caregivers should:

  • Always encourage others to use car seats and seat belts properly, no matter how short the trip.
  • Always put on your seatbelt to model the same behavior to your kids. Use phrases like, “Safety First” so that you develop a safety culture within your family.
  • Check to ensure your children are adequately restrained in a car seat, booster seat, or seatbelt, according to the regulations around age, height, and weight.
  • Make sure all children under 12 sit in the back seat and are properly restrained before you start the car.
  • Never place a rear-facing child safety seat in front of an airbag.
  • Utilize the middle back seat the most because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.

National Best Practices for Carseats and Seat Belts

(Taken from the Texas Department of Safety)

Selecting the proper car safety restraint for your child depends on a their height, weight and age. When deciding where your child should sit and selecting a car seat, there are some industry standards to consider that will optimize safety. Texas DPS recommends the following choices based on years of scientific study and crash statistics.

Phase 1
Rear-Facing Seats
Infants: Birth to 35+ pounds and 2+ years old. Use rear-facing infant or rear-facing convertible safety seats as long as possible, up to the rear-facing height or weight limit of the seat. Properly install according to the instructions in the owner’s manual, and only use rear-facing safety seats in the back seat.

Phase 2
Forward-facing Seats
When children outgrow the rear-facing safety seat (minimum 2+ years), they should ride in a forward-facing safety seat as long as possible, up to the upper height or weight limit (4080+ pounds) of the harnesses. Forward-facing car seats are typically used from 2 to 4+ years old. Ensure the safety seat is properly installed and forward-facing in the back seat. NEVER switch to forward-facing seats before your child meets all AGE/HEIGHT/WEIGHT requirements set by the safety seat manufacturer.

Phase 3
Booster Seats
After your child’s 4th birthday, he or she can ride in a booster seat so long as they have reached  40+ pounds and the appropriate level of behavior maturity*. Children can ride in a booster seat using the adult lap and shoulder belt until the adult safety belt fits them properly without it (usually when the child is 1012 years old). The booster seat MUST be used in conjunction with the lap/shoulder belt.

*Behavior maturity is usually outlined by  the booster seat owner’s manual

Phase 4
Adult Safety Belt
Once children outgrow their booster seat (usually at 1012 years old), they can use the adult lap/shoulder safety belt if it fits them properly. The lap belt should be worn low over the hips/tops of thighs and the shoulder belt should cross the center of the shoulder and center of the chest.

Children are better protected the longer they can stay in each phase. Keep children in each seat up to the maximum age/weight/height limits before moving to the next phase. ALL children younger than age 13 should ride properly restrained in the back seat.

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