No matter what it comes to, we want our kids to be safe. With a new baby, we make sure their crib, furniture, toys and even baby clothes are safe. We examine their rocking horses as they grow older, and we baby proof our homes to keep them from harm. So why would we take any chances when it comes to car seats in our vehicles?
Perhaps the youngest of parents don’t remember the pre-car seat days but plenty of us recall never being in a car seat when we were young. The first car seats were made to keep a child in place while the car was moving, but not in the event of an accident. It wasn’t until the 1960s that manufacturers started toying with rear-facing car seat designs. By 1984, half of children age 0 – 4 were in some sort of car seat. Today, all 50 states have child restraint laws and hospitals won’t let parents leave without first inspecting the child seat. This is a great step towards safety for children, but it can also be confusing. When does your child have to be in a seat? For how long?
The specific laws vary depending on where you live; in Florida, for instance, a child must be in a car or booster seat until at least age 3. In Wyoming and Tennessee, children have to be 8 before they can use a regular seatbelt. Make sure you know the laws for your particular state. Be aware, though, that other states’ laws apply to you when you are visiting or driving through them.
In general, though, there are some guidelines to follow when purchasing and using car and booster seats.
First time parents, and even “old-timers” often need help in choosing and installing their car seats. You can contact your local hospital to see if the seat you have purchased is approved and meets state safety standards. You can also find a car seat inspection station near you; these are typically located in hospitals, rescue services, and police and fire stations. You can find a location using this tool from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
This is useful because you can learn the right way to install the seat, as well as how to position your child and fit the restraints properly. This is crucial for optimal safety.
Many people think, “I didn’t need a car seat when I was a baby.” But today, there is far more congestion; cars go faster; there are more accidents; and cars are not made like tanks like they used to be. Since the 1970s, car seats have saved thousands of lives; it is well worth the investment.