Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week takes place September 19-25 this year and with this national campaign comes a moment to refresh our knowledge on what’s recommended to keep that precious cargo safe while riding inside a vehicle and the reasons why.
The leading cause of death for children and adolescents (ages 1-19 years old) remains motor vehicle accidents and 73% of those deaths were passengers. Despite all 50 states having child restraint laws on the books, an astonishing 38% of children who died in 2019 while riding in passenger vehicles were unrestrained, compared to 33% in 2018. This shocking increase highlights the need to help parents and caregivers find more information on how to determine if their child is in the right seat for their age and size.
While each state may have more stringent requirements, we’ll be highlighting Michigan’s Child Passenger Safety Law below:
- Children younger than age 4 to ride in a car seat in the rear seat if the vehicle has a rear seat.
- If all available rear seats are occupied by children under 4, then a child under 4 may ride in a car seat in the front seat.
- A child in a rear-facing car seat may only ride in the front seat if the airbag is turned off.
- Children must be properly buckled in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4-feet-9-inches tall.
- Children must ride in a seat until they reach the age requirement or the height requirement, whichever comes first.
Clearly understanding what type of seat your child should be in and how to properly use them is step one in preventing unnecessary harm.
- Infant Car Seat – Infant car seats are designed to be used rear-facing only and from newborn babies to older babies until they outgrow them, often at 8 or 9 months of age. Once they are outgrown (usually around 30lbs), it is recommended that parents move their child to an all-in-one car seat or convertible car seat. Infant car seats should be tilted at a 45 degree angle, with chest clips even to their armpits and snugly secured across their chest and over hips.
- All In One Car Seat – All in one car seats work to grow alongside your child, beginning with rear-facing to forward-facing and then becoming a car booster seat when the child is ready. This option allows for children to remain rear-facing longer (up to age 2) which many experts agree decreases both the risk of death and injury in children.
- Convertible Car Seat – Convertible car seats can give parents more options for usage while also allowing children to remain rear-facing longer. As all-in-one car seats, convertible car seats can be used with a harness and tether and allow for children to remain rear-facing up to age 2. Convertible car seats do not convert to booster seats in the future.
- Booster Seats – Booster seats are designed to boost a child’s height allowing seat belts to sit properly across their body and lay properly along their lap. Booster seats with high backs also can provide head and neck support for vehicles that do not have headrests while backless booster seats are available for vehicles that do have headrests that can support the child properly. Booster seats are recommended for children ages 4-8 years old and until the seat belt can sit correctly, typically when the child is 4 feet 9 inches tall.
- Seat Belts – While there is the recommended height of 4 feet 9 inches, it is important that parents keep their child in a booster seat until the seat belt can be worn properly with the lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder harness laying snug across the shoulder and chest (not across the face or neck). Kids may begin asking if they can sit in the front seat once a booster seat is no longer required but it is strongly recommended to keep them in the rear seat until at least age 12.
In addition to utilizing the correct seat designed to keep your child safe at every stage, it is highly recommended that parents register their car seat and booster seats so they can be made aware of any recalls that take place and to have their car seat checked annually to make sure it is installed correctly.
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