It holds your most prized possession, but it’s not a safe or a jewelry box. It’s not your phone or your wallet, but you take it everywhere. And it’s not a seat belt, but state law requires that you use it.
What’s the answer to this riddle? It’s your child safety seat, and it’s also the focus of this post:
- The History of Child Safety Seats: In fact, the first car seat arrived approximately 20 years after the Model T. Back then, its goal was not to increase safety — it was to keep youngsters from moving around in the car.
In the 1930s car seats were nothing more than a mere burlap sack with leg holes that hung behind a seat so the child would remain in one place.
Although more people in the 1950s began driving, safety standards for kids in cars make virtually no headway.
As car safety became more of a concern, people began to rethink car seats. In 1959, the three-point seat belt was developed for adults. Meanwhile, Briton Jean Ames and Len Rivkin designed more functional car seats for children in 1962.
By 1971, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required all car seats to have safety belts and a harness to hold a child into a seat.
But 73 percent of car seats still are not used or installed correctly. However, certified child passenger safety technicians are now able to help install a car seat properly or even double-check your work.
- How Child Safety Seats Can Save Lives: For good reason, child safety seat laws are on the books in 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Starting with the very first ride home from the hospital, babies are required to be in an approved child safety seat for any type motor vehicle travel.
The type of car seat required for a child is determined by the child’s age, height and weight. Infants typically require rear-facing seats with a harness, which are designed to reduce the stress on a child’s fragile neck and spinal cord.
It’s recommended that toddlers go in forward-facing child safety seats, which feature a harness and tether system that limits forward movement should a crash occur.
After your child has outgrown a child safety seat, but is still too young or small to use only a seat belt, it’s time for a booster seat. Because kids are not yet tall or heavy enough to be adequately protected by a seat belt, booster seats help kids meet the belt where it is.
- How to Choose the Right Child Safety Seat: With many kinds of child safety seats on the market, it is easy to get confused about which one is right for your child. It helps to remember that no one brand is the “safest” or “best” — rather, it all depends on the size of your child and the design of your vehicle. That said, there are general recommendations for children based on age.
For infants and toddlers rear-facing car seats are recommended across the board, since this design helps protect fragile spines. Children should remain in rear-facing seats until they are at least two years old or until they reach the maximum weight or height specified by the car seat’s manufacturer.
Once a child outgrows a rear-facing safety seat, you can use a forward-facing seat.
If your child is too big for a car seat but not ready to wear a properly fitted seat belt, a booster seat is recommended. There are two types of booster seats: high-back boosters and backless boosters.
Once your child is large enough for a seat belt to correctly fit, he or she can graduate to the seat belt.
- How to Install a Child Safety Seat. In order for a child safety seat to do its job, it must be properly installed. It sounds simple in theory, yet many seats are not installed correctly. It’s always a good idea to read the manual that came with your particular child safety seat. That’s because every model of car seat is different, and there are certain nuances you will discover only by reading the manual.
When installing the seat, place it firmly against the back of the vehicle’s seat and secure it with the seatbelts as outlined in your owner’s manual. When you do this, make sure the belts are drawn tight and that none of them are twisted. The entire seat should not be able to move more than an inch.
When your child outgrows his or her car seat and it’s time to move on to a booster seat, it’s important to have your child sit in the booster seat before it’s secured. Once your child is comfortable, pull the seat belt across their body so that it fits snugly over their thighs, not their stomach. The shoulder belt should rest across your child’s chest and be tight enough so they cannot slip their neck beneath it. Periodically check the belt for tightness, as it can loosen over time.