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car safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reports that 3 out of every 4 car seats are used incorrectly.  Choosing the right car seat can be overwhelming.  There are many models to choose from, such as convertible and “all-in-one” or “3-in-1,” forward-facing, rear-facing, and booster seats.  Choosing and properly installing the right car seat for your child’s age, height, and weight, will offer the most protection during a crash.  The right car seat, properly installed, can help prevent fatal injuries and save your child’s life.

  • Birth through Age 1 – Infants should always travel in a rear-facing car seat and should remain using one until they reach the top height and weight limits set by the seat’s manufacturer. Most rear-facing car seats can accommodate children through age 3; check the manufacturer’s instructions for details.
  • Ages 1 – 3 – Keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe.  On impact, rear-facing car seats are designed to cradle the child’s body and move with the child, minimizing stress to the neck and spinal cord.  Not until your child has reached the height and weight limits on a rear-facing car seat, is he or she ready for a forward-facing car seat.
  • Ages 4 – 7 – Forward-facing car seats have specially-designed harnesses that limit your child’s movement in the event of a crash. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, based on the manufacturer’s height/weight limits, it’s time to travel in a booster seat.
  • Ages 8 – 12 – Boosters seats are designed to boost a child’s height so that the seat belt fits properly over the child’s chest. They also provide needed head and neck support, especially since the child is probably not yet big enough to reach the vehicle’s head rest.  Keep your child in a booster seat as long as possible or until he or she has reached the height/weight limits as specified by the seat’s manufacturer.  If your child has outgrown their booster seat, he or she should still ride in the back; it’s the safest place for a child.

There are many car seats to choose from.  Remember, when purchasing a car seat, consider your child’s age, height, and weight.  The most expensive car seat isn’t always the safest.  Choose carefully!

Once you’ve purchased the right car seat, you should ensure proper installation and use by carefully following the instructions in the seat’s owner’s manual.  In addition, the NHTSA has a Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Seat Inspection Program where CPS technicians perform car seat safety checks and provide parents and caregivers hands-on assistance for proper use of car seats and seat belts.  To locate an inspection station near you, visit http://www.mass.gov/eopss/crime-prev-personal-sfty/traffic-safety/cps/finding-cps-technicians-and-check-up-events.html.

For additional information on choosing the right car seat for your child, visit www.safercar.gov/therightseat.

For more safety tips and resources, visit the Massachusetts Injury Prevention Program www.mass.gov/dph/injury.

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