Buckle up for Child Passenger Safety Week

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It’s Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 14-20), which means it’s time to bone up on car seat safety. Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children 1 to 13 years old, and 1 in 3 children ride unrestrained. I know the frustration of putting in a car seat, but a properly installed car seat, booster and use of seat belts is so very important.

When our children are babies, I think most parents are super cautious to be sure they little precious bundles are in the correct car seat, buckled up according to all the rules (despite the struggles in learning to install car seats). When I was expecting, I did all the research on the best infant carrier car seats, but I didn’t delve into the safest seats for bigger kids. And when I say bigger kids, I mean from toddler to 5-year-old. So here I am with a 5-year-old looking up best booster seats. In hind sight (of course it’s always hind sight), I wish I’d gone with a harness-to-booster car seat system rather than just the convertible car seat.

As I’m hanging out with parents of preschoolers and bigger kids, I realize I’m not the only one who doesn’t know the car seat safety rules for the bigger kiddos. Specifics about size and weight and age cause confusion and children may not always be riding in the safest manner. So with that in mind, here’s the breakdown on child safety seat laws in N.C.

• Any child under age 1 must be in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat. It is recommended a child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. As a child gets bigger/heavier, stop using the LATCH system and instead fasten a car seat using a seat belt as LATCH systems may not be strong enough to hold a seat and child weighing more than 65 pounds. (I’m sure car manufacturers are working to remedy this … or I hope so).

• Children who are less than age 5 and less than 40 pounds must be restrained in the back seat in a car seat. Once a child reaches age 4 and 40 pounds, he can move into a booster seat with a seat belt in the back seat. Though they can ride with a seat belt, a five-point harness system is safer in a car crash (consider a combination harness-to-booster seat that accommodates ages 2 and 25 pounds up to 90 pound), so keep them in a five-point harness as long as you can. 

• Kids younger than 8 years old and weighing less than 80 pounds must ride in a car seat or booster. Depending on which comes first, kids can upgrade to a seat belt once they turn 8 years old or top 80 pounds.

And for parents with infants who struggle to get those car seats installed just right, Britax headquarters in Fort Mill offers car seat check events. The next one in Dec. 5, 2014. But this Saturday, Sept. 20, as part of Child Seat Safety Saturday, there are two local safety events happening, one at Kohl’s, 9617 E. Independence Blvd – 9 a.m. to noon; and at K-Mart, 545 Concord Pkwy., Concord – 10 a.m. to noon.

For more child safety seat tips on installation and best practices, check out buckleupforlife.org, and be sure to watch this safety PSA for a laugh.