Car Seat, Booster Seat or Seatbelt: Where does your child fit?
Occupants of all ages should be properly restrained in a moving vehicle. Because of children’s small size, a regular seat belt will not properly protect them until they are older. Children need to be secured in a child passenger safety seat (car seat) that is used and installed correctly.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1-12 years old. Correctly used car seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.
Types of Car Seats
Rear-Facing Car Seat
Infants and very young children should be placed in a rear-facing car seat. A rear-facing car seat has a 5-point harness and, in a crash, cradles and moves with a child to reduce stress to child’s fragile neck and spinal cord. Minnesota law requires infants up to 1 year and 20 pounds to be rear-facing. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Safe Kids Worldwide, and many other safety experts recommend keeping the car seat rear-facing until the child reaches the manufacturer’s height and weight limits for the car seat. A rear-facing car seat is the safest restraint for a child.
Forward-Facing Car Seat
A child is ready for a forward-facing car seat when he/she outgrows the rear-facing seat. A forward-facing seat has a 5-point harness and a tether that limits a child’s forward movement during a crash. To maximize safety, keep a child in a forward-facing car seat until he/she reaches the manufacturer’s height and weight limits for the seat (regardless of age).
Once a child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, he/she is likely ready to use the lap and shoulder belt with a booster seat; booster seats should never be used with lap-only seat belts. Use the seat belt positioner (that comes with the booster seat) to fit the seat belt over the child's shoulder and across his/her chest. Keep your child in a booster seat until he/she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.
Once the child reaches 4'9", he/she may be ready to use a seat belt alone; review The 5 Step Test to learn more. For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest, and not cross the neck or face. Safety experts recommend children ride in the back seat until age 13 year; the back seat is always the safest location for children to ride.
Car Seat Installation
Approximately three-quarters (3/4) of children ride in car seats that are not properly installed. Carver County Public Health has Child Passenger Safety Technicians available to help you install your car seat. Call Carver County Public Health at (952) 361-1329 to schedule an appointment, or visit an upcoming car seat inspection event.
Need a Car Seat
Carver County Public Health has car seats available free of charge for families that meet specific income requirements. Additionally, children and pregnant women enrolled in Medical Assistance may be eligible to receive a free car seat through their health insurance provider. Call Carver County Public Health at (952) 361-1329 to learn more.