Safety First: Choosing the right car seat as kids age

We talked with experts about how to use the proper car seat.
We talked with experts about how to use the proper car seat.
Published: Jul. 6, 2023 at 3:35 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Parents know the little ones should be buckled up, but are they in the right seat? According to the CDC, car seats reduce the risk for injury in a crash by 71% - 82% for children compared to a seat belt alone.

“It’s important for people to know how to use these correctly because motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children 4-19 years old,” said Shannon Wilfong, the pediatric injury prevention coordinator for Levine Children’s Hospital.

Any child under 4′9″ needs to be in some sort of car seat or booster seat to ensure the safest ride. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 46% of car seats and booster seats are used incorrectly.

All child restraint seats have stickers on the bottom that outline the max height and weight for the child it will adequately protect.

“You want to abide by what they say and max them out to the highest you can, before graduating them out,” explained Wilfong.

Parents know that every child grows differently; so even when your child is the recommended age to move to the next sat, their height and weight are important factors to make sure they’re protected at their size.

Wilfong says parents should keep little ones in rear facing seats as long as possible, until at least years old, to maintain the head and neck support in the event of a collision.

Most car manuals have comprehensive sections on child restraint systems, from tether anchors to positioning and beyond.

Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, Wilfong says don’t skip the booster seat phase.

“Booster seats reduce the risk of serious injury 45% compared to seatbelts alone,” she explains.

She recommends keeping them in that booster seat until they can fit in a seatbelt properly, usually around 80 pounds. Putting a child in a seat belt alone, before they’re big enough, can mean the belt is cutting across their neck, which can lead to tragic consequences if they get in a crash.

Wilfong also advises against using expired or used car seats, because they won’t provide adequate protection. You should also register your car seat so you can be notified of any recalls.

No matter the age, it’s crucial to buckle up for every ride, every time, in the right seat.

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