September is National Baby Safety Month, so we’re here to share some tips for keeping your child safe on the road. Children have small bodies and when not properly secured in the car, are at great risk in a collision. According to the CDC, about 46% of child car and booster seats are misused in a way that could reduce their effectiveness. So even if a child is in a safety seat, it could be used incorrectly and still put the child at risk. We all want to keep children safe while on the road, so it’s important to know how to properly secure children.
Child safety seat laws vary by state.
While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a recommended set of guidelines for child safety seats, the law varies depending on which state you live in. The laws also change every so often to keep up with safety standards, so it’s important to be aware of the laws in your state and check to see if they have changed recently.
For example, Louisiana has a new child car seat law that is stricter than it used to be, in an effort to keep children safe. The new law requires children to remain rear-facing until at least two years old, and requires children under the age of 13 to sit in the back seat.
Be mindful of your state’s child safety seat laws and keep an eye on the news for new laws in your area.
Rear-facing car seats should be used from birth until at least 12 months.
Like we said above, this varies depending on the state, but in general, the NHTSA recommends babies remain in a rear-facing car seat from birth until at least 12 months. It is recommended to keep them rear-facing as long as possible. There are many car seat brands out there, and some are strictly rear-facing, while others are convertible and will follow your child as they grow. All child car seats have to meet the same safety standards, so it’s really a personal choice in terms of which type or brand you purchase. If you’re unsure of how to properly-secure your child’s safety seat in your vehicle, there are many programs available now at certain police stations and fire stations where a professional can help you install the seat.
Forward-facing car seats can be used once children outgrow the rear-facing seat.
Parents often ask, "What age can I turn my child’s car seat front forwarding?" Again, it depends on your state, but you should keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible, as that’s the safest position for them to be in. Check with the car seat’s manufacturer to see what the top height and weight limits are on the seat. When your child outgrows the rear-facing seat, you can switch them to front-facing with a harness and tether.
Consider taking one of our defensive driving courses to brush up on your driving skills. Visit our website to find an online course offered in your state.
You shouldn’t use a hand-me-down child safety seat.
Safety standards are always improving. You want your child to be as safe as possible, and that means not reusing an old car seat from a few years ago. Car seats do have expiration dates! Most seats will have the expiration date stamped on the manufacturer label on the sides or base of the car seat. While you don’t need to buy the most expensive car seat option available, it is safer to purchase a new one with no wear and tear for your new baby.
Booster seats are the next step.
When your child reaches the height and weight limit for their front-facing child seat, they can switch to a booster seat. The age will depend on the child, though be sure to check your state’s law for any specific requirements.
The back seat is the safest place to be.
Your child should be in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. Seat belts need to lie snugly across the upper thighs, not your child’s stomach. The shoulder belt needs to be snug across the shoulder and chest. People always wonder, "Can my child sit in the front seat of a car?" The answer, again, varies by state. Most states set age requirements as well as height or weight requirements for when a child can sit in the front seat. The back seat is the best place for your child to sit because that’s where it is safest.
This Baby Safety Month, let’s make all an extra effort to keep children safe by keeping up with child safety seat laws in your state. We hope you found this post helpful, and consider sharing it with other parents. We also hope you consider checking out some of our online courses! We offer courses for traffic school and defensive driving, auto insurance discounts, driver education, and mature driver improvement. Please check out our website to see what courses we offer in your state. Are you a resident of the Lone Star State? We offer a Seat Belt Safety course in Texas. Click here to learn more about our Texas Seat Belt Safety course. If you have any questions about any of our courses, our excellent customer support team is here to help!