New parents have a lot to worry about. Feeding schedules, weight gain, sleep amounts and elimination habits tend to take up a lot of brain space in the first few months. As babies become more mobile, parents begin “child-proofing” all the danger zones within the home.
Ensuring a child’s safety while riding in the car is also an important focus for parents. It is an unfortunate reality that the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. is injury due to motor vehicle accidents. As parents, we can’t control how everyone else drives, but we can make sure our children are in the most appropriate car seat for their age and size.
Age-based car seat recommendations
The good news is, proper use of car seats, boosters and seat belts can reduce the risk of serious and fatal injuries by up to 80%. Here are the CDC’s recommendations by age:
- Birth to age 2-4: infants and toddlers are safest when buckled in a car seat with a harness and rear-facing. It’s okay if their legs are a little jammed up. Check the car seat to determine height and weight maximums
- Until at least age 5: once your child outgrows the height and weight recommendations for your rear-facing car seat, he or she can transition to a forward-facing car seat with a harness
- After age 5 until around 9 or 10: when your child outgrows the height and weight recommendations for the forward-facing car seat, it’s time to transition to a booster seat. Until the seat belt naturally crosses the child’s lap at the thighs (not stomach) and center of the shoulder and chest (not the neck or face), you will want to make sure the booster has a high back with a seat belt positioner
Regardless of your child’s height or weight, it is safest for them to ride in the backseat until about age 12.
Even the most cautious and law-abiding parents cannot prevent another person from causing a motor vehicle accident. If someone else’s poor driving causes your child to become injured, it’s important to know your rights. You may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical treatment, emotional damages, time off from work and repairs to your car.