Jessica Miles, M.Ed., MCHES, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Medina County Health Department
One of the most important jobs you have as a parent is keeping your child safe when riding in a vehicle. Each year thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes. Proper use of car seats helps keep children safe. But with so many different car seats on the market, it’s no wonder many parents find this overwhelming. To simplify the process keep the following in mind:
- Find a car seat that fits your child. As children grow, how they sit in your car will change. Make sure the car seat you purchase is designed to fit your child’s current size and age.
- Make sure that the car seat is the right fit for your vehicle. Not all car seats fit in all vehicles. Test the car seat you plan to buy to make sure it fits well in your vehicle.
- Buy a car seat that can be installed and used correctly every time.
Forward-facing, Rear-facing, Booster Seat or Harness?
Use the following guidelines to determine how your child’s seat should be installed:
Birth – 12 Months
Children under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period.
1 – 3 Years
Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your 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.
4 – 7 Years
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, its’ time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat. Don’t rush to move your child to a booster seat too early. Continue to use your forward-facing car seat with a harness and top tether in the back seat for as long as possible. The harness and top tether provide upper torso, head, and neck protection. Always read manufacturer’s instructions for size limits.
8 – 12 Years
Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seatbelt 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. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there. To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements. Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 13.
Installation and Inspection
Once you’ve purchased the appropriate car seat, it’s equally important to install it correctly. The Medina County Health Department provides free car seat installations and inspections on the second Monday of every month. For a complete schedule or for more information visit www.medinahealth.org or call 330-662-0577. We are unable to accept walk-ins for inspections so please be sure to make an appointment.
The Medina County Health Department has protected your health since 1918 and is a trusted source of health guidance for creating a healthy environment, healthy people, and a healthy community. Services are partially supported by your property tax health levy. Equal opportunity provider.