By: Angy Talbot – ECFE Blog Writer
I was surprised to read that 9 out of 10 car seats are used INCORRECTLY and that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and disability among children. This is why it is so important to make sure your child is in a correctly secured child passenger seat. Minnesota law requires all children age 8 and under to ride in a federally approved child safety seat or booster seat, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller. Infants under one and weighing less than 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing car seat. Minnesota law requires drivers and all passengers to be buckled up or in the correct child restraint. Here is a quick reference on car seat safety from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety buckleupkids.mn.gov:
Infant restraints are for newborns to at least age 1 and 20-30 pounds, depending on the seat. It is recommended to keep a baby rear-facing as long as possible. Most babies will outgrow an infant seat (designed for babies 20–22 pounds) before age 1. Change to a convertible seat with a higher rear-facing weight limit. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping children rear-facing until age 2. Children may stay rear-facing longer in convertible seat up to 30 or 35 pounds, or based on the seat’s weight limits.
Forward-Facing Seat (with a harness)
Types of forward facing seats with a harness convertible or combination seat. For children who have outgrown a rear-facing seat (recommended to keep children rear-facing until age 2). Children should use a forward facing harnessed seat until they outgrow the weight limit (typically 40-60 pounds, depending on seat).
Booster seats are for kids who have outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint, usually after turning age 4. Booster seats help adult safety belts fit correctly on a child’s body. Booster’s keep the lap belt low on the hips and the shoulder belt across the chest. Minnesota law requires booster seat use. A child cannot ride in just a seat belt until they are age 8 or 4 feet 9 inches tall, whichever comes first. It is recommended, however, to keep a child in a booster based on their size rather than age.
Child Passenger Safety
- Safety seats must meet federal safety standards and be installed properly to prevent injuries.
- Read the manufacturer’s instructions and the motor vehicle owner’s manual to ensure the safety seat is being used correctly. Follow instructions carefully.
- Check the instruction manual for the weight and height restrictions for each child safety seat.
- Children under age 13 should ride in the rear seat.
Common Child Passenger Safety Mistakes
- Turning a child from a rear-facing safety seat to a forward-facing safety seat too soon.
- Safety seat is not secured tight enough —should not shift more than one inch side-to-side or out from the seat.
- Harness on the child is not tight enough —if you can pinch harness material, it’s too loose.
- Retainer clip is up too high or too low —should be at the child’s armpit level.
- The child is in the wrong safety seat —don’t rush your child into a seat belt. (Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety buckleupkids.mn.gov)
When purchasing a car seat, be sure the car seat matches your child’s height, weight and age. For those that qualify, reduced-cost car seats are available for Sherburne County residents. For more information and to see if you qualify call Sherburne County Public Health at: 1-800-433-5237 or 763-765-4000. It is best to use a newly purchased car seat. Second-Hand Child Restraints may be OK to use if:
- It’s not more than six years old.
- It’s free of any recalls.
- It has not been involved in a crash.
- All labels are on the child restraint.
- The instruction manual is present.
- You know the individual who previously owned the restraint and you know the history of the restraint. (buckleupkids.mn.gov)
For more detailed information and guidelines on car seat safety visit the following websites:
Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety: Child Passenger Safety Program
Sherburne County Public Health – Healthy Children Car Seat Safety
Rear Facing Car Seat Guidelines – Parting.com
Law enforcement will stop and ticket unbelted motorists or passengers so buckle up!