Car Seat Safety Standards Could Change, What It Means For Your Family

By Amy E. Bauccio, Lawyer at Metzger Wickersham

Car seats and boosters provide protection for infants and children in a crash, yet the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Association (NHTSA) reports that car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. That's why it's so important to choose and use the right car seat correctly every time your child is in the car.

According to KTNV Las Vegas, the NHTSA is hoping to make changes that could keep your child safe in a car seat. Recently, they have introduced a new crash test dummy that is the first side-impact dummy in federal regulations. It was specifically designed for testing child seats in side-impact crash tests. Click here for the final rule.

NHTSA is also proposing numerous upgrades, including one that could require labels on car seats to encourage parents to keep their children in rear-facing child seats until they outgrow the rear-facing height and weight limits of the seat. Click here to view the notice.

Car Seat Recommendations Based on Child's Age and Size

As children grow, how they are secured in a vehicle changes based on age, weight, and height. Infants and children under eight years of age must be in an approved child restraint or booster seat when riding anywhere in a motor vehicle. Follow these steps to choose the right seat, install it correctly, and keep your child safe.

  • Rear-Facing: Infants or children younger than 2 years old should be secured in a back seat rear-facing seat for as long as possible. This system is to be used until the child outgrows the maximum weight and height limits designated by the car seat manufacturer. Often the weight limit for these seats is 35 pounds. Harness straps should lay flat and fit snugly positioned at or below the shoulder. The harness retainer clip should be at armpit level. Rear-facing car seats, which support the head, neck, and spine, are designed to distribute crash forces across the shell of the car seat.
  • Forward-Facing: When children outgrow their rear-facing car seats they should ride in a forward-facing child safety seat, in a back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of their particular seat. The maximum weight limit for these seats can range from 40 pounds to 65 pounds. Harness straps should lay flat and fit snuggly positioned at or above the shoulder, with the harness retainer clip at armpit level.
  • Booster Seat: Children 4 years of age or older but under 8 years of age can ride in a seat belt system with an appropriately fitting child booster seat, in a back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lies across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest. Children should be use these restrain systems until they are least 4’ 9” tall.
  • Seat Belt: Children ages 8 through 17 must use a seat belt. When children outgrow their belt-positioning booster seats, they can use the adult seat belt in a back seat if it fits properly (lap belt lays across the hips/upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the center of the chest and shoulder). Additionally, children age 12 and under should ride buckled in the back seat because of potential dangers associated with air bag deployment.

Car Seat Finder

To find the right car seat use NHTSA’s car seat finder.

Car Seat Installation Instructions

Car seats are most effective when used properly, make sure the installation instructions are followed correctly.

Car Seat Inspection

Whether you’ve just installed a car seat or need help installing or using one, get help at a car seat inspection station near you. Certified technicians will inspect your car seat free of charge, in most cases, and show you how to correctly install and use it. Some locations now offer virtual inspections.

To find a Child Passenger Safety Technician or inspection station near you, complete the Safe Kids Worldwide digital form or click here and enter your city and state or zip code.

Child Safety Seat Loan Programs

Additionally, in many counties across the Commonwealth, car seat loan programs provide child safety seats to families in need to help them follow the law and keep children safe while riding in vehicles. Click here to find an active car seat loan program near you.

If you or a loved one was injured in a motor vehicle accident, whether as a driver or a passenger, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Metzger Wickersham. We are available 24/7 to answer your questions. Call (888)-286-2850 or email usto schedule a free consultation.

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