Using a child safety seat in a vehicle sounds simple, right? All you do is buckle the child restraint in the vehicle, put the child in and you're ready to go. Unfortunately, the process is not always as simple as we think.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children age 3 to 6 and 8 to 14. With that in mind, it's important to know all the facts when buckling up your kids.
North Dakota law states that children younger than 7 are required to ride in a child restraint, either a car seat or booster seat, used correctly-following the manufacturer's instructions. Usually 8 or 9 out of 10 car seats are used incorrectly.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has 4 easy steps to protecting your kids - rear facing infant, forward facing toddler, booster seat for children and seat belt for tweens.
For infants, the first step in securing your child in a motor vehicle is to place them in a rear facing child restraint until one year of age and 20 pounds minimum. The longer you can keep your child rear facing the safer they are.
The second step is a forward facing child restraint for children who weigh more than 20 pounds and are at least one year of age. Children should ride in a child restraint with a harness until they weigh 40 pounds or more, if the seat allows.
The third step is booster seats, which are child restraints that are used along with the vehicle's seat belt system. They are for children who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and are less than 4'9" tall.
The last step is for the child to use the lap and shoulder belt. Even if your child is 7 years of age and by law no longer has to use a booster seat, ask yourself these 5 questions before you take them out of that booster: Is the child seated all the way back against the vehicle seat? Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the end of the seat? Is the lap belt low on the hip bones? Is the shoulder belt centered on the shoulder and chest? Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip? If you answered "no" to one or more of these questions, your child may still need a booster seat to ride safely.
To correctly implement the above 4 steps you need to consider selection, direction, location and installation.
Selection is picking out the right car seat for your child - one that fits your child, fits the vehicle, and you will use correctly every time, considering the child's weight, height and age when selecting.
Direction means whether your child faces rear or forward in the vehicle. Your child should face the rear of the vehicle until at least 1 year and 20 pounds. Your child travels safest rear facing, so keep them rear facing to the weight limit of your child restraint. Some seats can be installed just rear facing and some rear and forward facing. Consult the child restraint owner's manual for this information.
Location deals with the seating position in the vehicle where the child restraint is installed. Kids are always safest in the back seat, middle position.
Installation is using your seat belt system or latch system correctly to get the seat tightly anchored in the vehicle. Some child seats have latch belts attached to them. If your vehicle has latch anchors, you can use your child restraint's latch system instead of the seat belt to install the child safety seat, but consult your vehicle and car seat owner's manual for correct installation information. The child restraint is installed tight enough in the vehicle if it doesn't move more than an inch from side to side. If the child restraint moves more than an inch, either the seat belt or latch needs to be tightened or put into a locked position for the child restraint to be secure. The harness of the child restraint is the webbing that keeps the child secure in the seat. The harness clip that is attached to the webbing of the child restraint should be at armpit level across the chest. You know the harness straps are tight enough if you can't pinch the webbing on the child's chest.
Children 13 years and younger should be in the back seat. Vehicle manufacturers recommend this for a reason and for the safety of your child.
We do not recommend buckling your child in the child restraint in a thick coat or snowsuit. In a crash all that material will compress and the child may abruptly fly forward because of all the extra space.
Safe Kids of Fargo Moorhead has a couple opportunities each month to have your child restraint checked. Call 701-234-5570 to make an appointment. If you have any questions regarding child passenger safety, contact the West Fargo Police Department at 701-433-5500 and ask to speak with a child passenger safety seat technician.
You can also visit www.nhtsa.gov and click on child passenger safety for more information.