Keeping children safe on the road is a top priority for parents and caregivers, but learning to use car seats properly can be confusing and overwhelming. In this post, our Springfield car accident lawyers provide some useful tips and resources for drivers with little ones on board.
Traveling safely with children: What Missouri parents need to know about car seats
• Rear-facing seats are significantly safer for small children. Infants should always ride in rear-facing seats, and safety experts recommend that parents keep their children in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible. A child's spine is made of cartilage that doesn't harden until around age 4, and for this reason, car accidents involving children can result in serious neck and spinal injuries. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), toddlers are more than five times safer in rear-facing car seats up to age two, so it's best to hold off on switching to a front-facing seat until it's absolutely necessary.
• Proper installation is essential. Every car seat is different and will thus have different installation instructions. Consult the manual that came with your car seat and your vehicle owner's manual when installing a car seat, and remember that all car seats should be installed "using either the lower anchors of the LATCH system or the seat belt to secure it in place." A car seat should always be installed in a vehicle's back seat, and it should be secured so that it doesn't move more than one inch from side to side or front to back when you pull at the belt path.
• Make sure your child is fitted correctly in the seat. Safety straps should be flat, not twisted, and positioned appropriately to secure your child. According to safercar.gov, the seat's chest clip should be positioned at the child's armpit level, and the harness should be tightened so that extra material can't be pinched at the shoulder.
• Seek help if you're not sure you're using your child's car seat correctly. There are numerous resources available online for parents who want to learn more about car seat safety or ensure that their seats are properly installed. For example, the AAP offers a useful guide, "Car Seats: Information for Families," that provides an overview of the different types of car seats and general guidelines for their use. You can also click here to review Missouri's Child Restraint Law (RSMo 307.182). And finally, if you'd like to locate a Child Car Seat Inspection Station, there are several in the Springfield area: click here to use the National Highway Traffic Administration's Inspection Station Locator tool.