When a parent says, “Let’s go for a ride in the car,” the invitation usually is greeted with excitement by young children. Engineers have been working to ensure car seats are designed to keep kids as safe as possible, but it’s up to every parent to take full advantage of these innovations by making sure car seats and booster seats are used and installed correctly. Placing children in age- and size-appropriate car and booster seats saves lives and reduces serious injuries.
Here’s what you need to know to ensure your most precious cargo is safe:
■ Backseat is safest. All children younger than 13 years should ride in the backseat. The middle of the backseat is the safest spot in the vehicle. Airbags are dangerous to young children riding in the front seat.
■ Rear-facing seat: Infants and children from birth to 2 years old should be kept in a rear-facing child safety seat buckled with the seat’s harness until they reach the upper weight or height limits of their particular seat.
■ Convertible seat: Convertible car seats allow children to ride rear-facing until they are 30 to 45 pounds. Use a five-point harness system until the child is 40 pounds or at the upper weight limit of the seat. Refer to your car seat and vehicle owner’s manual.
■ Forward-facing seat: Your child should ride in a car or booster seat until they are about 57 inches tall.
■ Seat belt: When the booster seat has been outgrown, your child should be able to sit back against the seat with knees bent naturally at the edge of the seat with the shoulder belt crossing between the neck and arm and lap belt crossing low on the hips.
■ Get up-to-date information: Car seat age and size charts as well as information about safety and Colorado law are available at www.carseatscolorado.com.
■ Check with an expert: In Routt County, free inspections are available at the Steamboat Springs Mountain Fire Station by calling 970-879-7170 for an appointment. Car dealerships usually provide free inspections and show you how to install and adjust the safety seat.
■ Avoid used seats: Only buy or accept a secondhand car seat from someone you know and trust. If a car seat has been in a crash, it needs to be replaced.
■ Buckle up every ride: When adults wear seat belts, kids wear seat belts. Young children learn by watching others, and they will mirror parent behavior.
■ Let your child help pick out a booster seat: Some seats include cup holders, armrests and other cool features. Let you child decorate the seat with stickers or his or her name. Point out the better view from the booster seat.
Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. High temperatures in the car can cause heatstroke in the time it takes for you to run a quick errand.
Information in this article was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado Department of Transportation and Safe Kids USA.