Keep Kids Safe in the Car

All 50 states have a combination of laws that require drivers to restrain children in car seats, booster seats, and seats belts. Specifics vary by state, based on the child's age and size.

In the latest statistics available, half of children ages 14 and younger who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2004 were not using safety restraints when the accidents occurred, Safe Kids Worldwide says.

Moreover, about 85 percent of youngsters who use child safety seats and booster seats are not placed in these seats correctly. The seat might be the incorrect one for the child, based on his or her size and age. The child might not be strapped in properly. Or, the child might be placed in the front seat. (The back seat is safer, Safe Kids says.)

To keep your child safe, learn your state's child car restraint rules (visit www.usa.safekids.org) and follow these practices:

  • Place a child in a rear-facing infant seat or rear-facing convertible seat for as long as possible—at least until the child is 1 year old and weighs more than 20 pounds. The safest place to install the car seat is in the center of the back seat.

  • Install the car seat tightly. You shouldn't be able to move it more than an inch when tugging from side to side.

  • Make the child's harness snug. You should only be able to fit a finger or two between the harness and the child.

  • Place a child who weighs 20 to 40 pounds in a forward-facing seat with a harness.

  • Use a booster seat until your child can sit on the regular seat with his or her back all the way against the seat and knees bent comfortably over the edge.

  • Keep the lap belt snug on the upper thighs or hips, not against the soft abdomen. Keep the shoulder belt snug across the chest and collarbone.

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