Facts About Car Seat Safety

Facts About Car Seat Safety

Dr.RebecaaButlerby Dr. Rebecca Butler

I get many questions in my daily practice regarding the best way to keep children safe when riding in the vehicle. The laws and recommendations can be very confusing and, at times, contradictory. I have attached and modified some common graphics and charts in attempt to simply the recommendations and guidelines. Please make sure that the types of seats you use meet your children’s specific needs.

Types of Car Seats at a Glance
This is a quick guide on where to start your search. It’s important to continue reading more about the features and how to use your car seat. Additional safety tips are at the end of this article.

​Rear-facing only seats and rear-facing convertible seats
All infants and toddlers should ride in a Rear-Facing Car Seat until they are at least 2 years of age, or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer.
(Texas Law states they must remain in rear facing until 20lbs AND 1 year of age)

Convertible seats and forward-facing seats with harnesses
Any child who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their convertible car seat should use a Forward-Facing Car Seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer.​

School-Aged Children
​Booster Seats
​All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a Belt-Positioning Booster Seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

Older Children
Seat Belts
When children are old enough and large enough for the vehicle seat belt to fit them correctly, they should always use Lap and Shoulder Seat Belts for optimal protection.
All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.

Reference: www.healthychildren.org

What if my baby’s feet touch the back of the vehicle seat?
Your child can bend his legs easily and will be comfortable in a rear-facing seat. Injuries to the legs are rare for children facing the rear.

What do I do if my baby slouches down or to the side in his car seat?
Blanket rolls may be placed on both sides of the infant and a small diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and the infant. Do not place padding under or behind the infant or use any sort of car seat insert unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer of the seat.

Why should I dress my baby in thinner layers of clothing before strapping her into a car seat?
Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compress in a crash and lead to increased risk of injury. Ideally, dress your baby in thinner layers and tuck a coat or a blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps if needed.

Do preemies need a special car seat?
The car seat should be approved for the baby’s weight. Very small babies who can sit safely in a semi reclined position usually fit better in rear-facing only seats. Premature infants should be tested while still in the hospital to make sure they can sit safely in a semi reclined position. Babies who need to lie flat during travel should ride in a crash-tested car bed.

When can my child stop using a booster?
Do not stop using a booster seat unless you can answer “yes” to ALL of the questions listed here – no matter how tall, how heavy, or how old he or she is!Make sure to perform the 5-Step Test for every vehicle that your child rides in. They may pass in some cars but not others. Many children will not be able to pass this test until age 10-12 despite the fact that Texas law allows them to ride without a booster at age 8.

Dr. Rebecca Butler is Board Certified in Pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is proud to be a resident of Lantana and the owner of Lantana Pediatrics. For more information on Dr. Butler or to schedule an appointment, call 940.455.7200.

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