Car seats and booster seats are your first line of defense in keeping kids safer when they’re riding in your car.
Thousands of children are injured or killed in car accidents. Yet some of these injuries and deaths could have been prevented if the kids were riding in the appropriate car seat/booster seat or back seat.
“Keeping kids safer means knowing the type of seat they need and where the best place for them is in your vehicle,” says Daniel Bates, a certified agent at Bates Insurance Agency. “That all depends on their age, their size and the type of vehicle you have.”
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
But how do you know what’s best? Simply put, do your research.
Find out more from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which provides a list of car seats and car seat manufacturers, or from your local health care providers or local Child Passenger Safety Technician. To find a certified technician in Massachusetts to help attach a child safety seat, call 1-877-392-5956 or go to www.mass.gov/highwaysafety.
If installing a car seat or booster on your own, always read your vehicle’s owner’s manual and the car seat manual first.
If your car is newer than 2002 it is likely to have LATCH, an attachment system for car seats. With LATCH, lower anchors can be used instead of seat belts to install a car seat and top tethers improve the car seat’s safety.
Buy a car seat rated and recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These seats meet federal safety standards and strict crash performance standards.
Register the car seat with NHTSA. Unfortunately, sometimes there are recalls. Avoid using unsafe car seats by registering with the NHTSA for notices about all safety-related defects and recalls.
“In Massachusetts, state law requires all children must ride in federally approved child safety seats until they are at least eight years old or over 57 inches tall,” Bates says. “The key is to have the kids in your car in the appropriate car seat or booster for their age, weight and size at all times.”
All infants should ride in rear-facing seats, until they are at least two years of age or reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Infants in back-facing child safety seats should be in the back seat. Never in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag.
Once children outgrow the infant seat they need a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer.
School-aged children, or those too big for the forward-facing car seat limit, should be in a belt-positioning booster seat until a seat belt fits them properly _ that’s usually when they’re about four foot nine inches tall and between 8 and 12 years old.
Basically all kids under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat of a vehicle. And, if possible, in the middle of the back seat is usually best.
When kids do ride in the front seat, they are required by Massachusetts state law to wear a seat belt. Remember to move the front passenger seat as far back from the dashboard as well.
“Unfortunately we can’t predict if, and when, we might be in a car accident,” Bates says. “But we can provide our kids with the proper safety equipment, car seats and booster seats, to protect them should an accident happen.”