Did you know that picking a car seat isn’t as straightforward as it seems? People tend to assume that age is a reliable way to select the type of car seat a child needs. However, bodyweight and height are more relevant when it comes to matters of auto safety. This is because the lighter a child weighs, the farther a vigorous collision is likely to eject them from their seat. Height is also important because standard safety belts are ergonomically designed to protect passengers who are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. Anyone below this height could end up getting injured by the belt itself during a collision. Age can provide a rough guideline of a child’s physical dimensions, but it is far more helpful to actually measure the height and weight of a child before choosing a car seat for them. There are four main restraint systems a driver can use to secure child passengers:
1. Rear-Facing Car Seats:
If a child weighs less than 40 lbs., or if they are shorter than 3’4” tall – a rear-facing car seat is most appropriate for them. Rear-facing car seats are portable seats designed to accommodate newborns and small children. They secure the child with their face looking towards the backrest of a vehicle’s chair while harnessing the child into the portable car seat itself. The average child will likely need this type of car seat until they’re two years old.
2. Forward-Facing Car Seats:
If a child weighs 41 – 70 lbs., or if they are between 3’5” and 4’2” tall – a forward-facing car seat is most appropriate for them. Forward-facing car seats can either use a harness to secure child passengers, or they can elevate children enough to make it possible for factory-installed seatbelts to be used along with the car seat itself. The average child will likely need this type of car seat between the ages of 3 – 7.
3. Booster Seats:
If a child weighs 71 – 120 lbs., or if they are between 4’3” and 4’9” tall – a booster seat is most appropriate for them. Booster seats can either have a backrest or not, but their main purpose is to elevate a child’s position enough for them to transition into wearing factory-issued seatbelts in a car. The bigger a child grows, the less they should use car seats that are installed with backrests. The average child will likely need this type of car seat between the ages of 8 – 12.
4. Standard Seatbelts:
If a child weighs more than 120 lbs., or if they are taller than 4’9” in height – it’s ok for them to use factory installed seatbelts that meet federal safety standards. Always ensure that children wear seatbelts correctly. They should be strapped across the child’s upper thighs and fit closely along their torso. The average child will likely be able to use standard safety belts past the age of 12.
Safety comes first where family is concerned. Buckling up your kids every time you enter a car isn’t just an act of caution – it’s a matter of life and death. If you are a parent or caregiver to a child, you have a responsibility to ensure that any children you travel with do more than just wear a standard seatbelt. Always remember that the law requires drivers to transport young passengers using Child Restraint Systems or Safety Seats which are appropriate for their current height and weight. Choose the right chair for your child, and you’ll be able to relax behind the wheel as you drive.
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