We as parents struggle to keep our children in the car seat. The desperate cries and screams are so often intolerable, which explains why some parents give up the fight.
On the other hand, car seats can be such a hassle to install correctly, that we are guilty of doing it incorrectly at some times. We do not take the time to read the manuals and to understand how to install a car seat properly.
Research estimates that at least three-quarters of car seats are installed improperly or that children are not seated in them correctly, with the harness tight enough.
With all this on hand, we have asked ourselves more than once, “why is car seat safety important?” However, we are trying to give in to something that we know is a life-saver. But battling with a piece of plastic that almost does not fit into your car and dealing with tantrums from children that do not want to sit in them, makes us question the whole idea. Are car seats really that important? Do they really save a child’s life?
In this article, we are going to give you some good reasons why you want your children to sit in the car seat, regardless if they like it or not, and why you want to install the car seat correctly each time you move it into a vehicle.
Car Seat Statistics
We know that car seats really help protect children from life-threating injuries. Research shows that car seats that are properly installed and used correctly reduce over 50% risk of fatal injuries in children in booster seats and over 70% in children that are restrained in convertible or infant car seats. That is a good reason to restrain your child every time you ride the car, no matter how short the trip is.
It is hard to believe that the numbers are still so high after over 30 years of car seat laws and regulations in the USA.
Studies done in the past years show that over 1,500 children ride a car unrestrained every single day. It does not sound very much considering the large population of the USA. However, the number is far too high for the laws that have been enforced for decades. It means that some people are not conscious of the importance of car seat safety.
We need to clarify that these numbers do not include the +20 million K-12 students that ride unrestrained on school buses every day. If you want to know why students on school buses are not restrained, find out here.
Another alarming statistic is that almost 2 children under the age of 12 were killed in car crashes and over 350 children were injured in 2016 every single day. Motorized vehicle crashes are in fact the leading cause for children’s deaths. You might have thought that it would be illnesses that would lead, but that is still not the case because so many children are on the road daily and parents do not take car seat safety serious.
In fact, in most cases, it is children that ride with parents that are not restrained either, and in many cases, the driver is drunk, which makes things worse.
However, we have to mention that only at least 30% of deaths in 2016 were because children were not restrained. What about the other around 70%? Sadly, in many cases, car seats were not properly installed, else not so many children would have been injured or killed.
Why Are Car Seats Important?
It has happened to us that other people ask us why we think it is necessary to have children in car seats even for the smallest trips. It is common that we hear, “Back when we were children, we did not have car seats and we all turned out ok”.
Yes, that might be true, but when analyzing data, one of those 700 children killed yearly could be yours. How would you feel if you were among the 30% that did not have their children restrained, and you could have potentially saved your child’s life? Most likely guilt would plague you for the rest of your life.
However, car seats are very important not only because of the death rate. There are other very good reasons to have your child safely secured in a car seat.
First of all, a baby’s spine and neck are not yet developed. It takes at least until the age of 4-6 until these get stronger and can resist the energy of a car crash. If you have your baby unrestrained in the car, it will be tossed around in a crash, making your baby highly vulnerable and brain and spine damage unpreventable.
That is also the reason why car seat laws require children under the age of 2 to sit in the rear-facing position. No matter where the impact comes from, the back of the car seat will maintain your child’s wobbly head in a more stable position.
Car seats are also important because adults can at least sit still in the car, but unrestrained children move around a lot, so they will most likely not be ready for a crash. And because of their weight, even the smallest bump can make your child fly around in the car, and may even eject her from the vehicle.
In fact, you would be surprised how the slightest movement makes your child roll over. Unrestrained children often stand on the seat, and you do not even need to have a crash. Suddenly braking your car is enough to send your child flying.
And lastly, you hear about parents that do not want to hassle with car seats, so they just use seat belts to fasten their children. Unfortunately, seat belts are designed for adults because of the height that they are positioned. Most children under the age of 10-12 are not tall enough that the seat belt fits them just above the shoulder.
What Car Seat You Need
With enough reasons to use car seats for your children, you need to know some basic things about car seats.
There are three types of car seats: Infant, convertible, and booster car seats.
Infant car seats are designed for children in between 0-4 years old (although most kids outgrow them before they are 1.5 years old), or 5-40 pounds. They consist of a base and a carrier. The base is installed in the car, but the carrier attaches or detaches easily for you to carry your child with you in the car seat without having to remove every time you leave the car.
Infant car seats are very convenient because they help you protect your child from bad weather or not having to wake her when you leave the car.
These car seats only work in the rear-facing position, which is the position required by the law for children younger than 2.
The only negative about infant car seats is that they do not hold your baby for long, which is why you are required to buy a convertible or booster seat soon.
Convertible car seats are designed for children anywhere between 0-12 years, depending on the model, make, and features. Some will be for children between 2-8, others for children between 0-8, and so on.
The awesome feature of these car seats is that you can use them in the rear-facing position for toddlers and in the forward-facing position once your child is old enough for that position. And some even convert into high back booster seats or backless boosters.
You cannot carry your child around in these car seats since they are not detachable from the base, which makes them inconvenient for babies.
And lastly, you will find booster seats, from high back boosters to backless boosters. These hold your children between ages 3-12. These do not have a harness. You secure your child with the seat belt. Depending on the seat you buy, you will have some that will have a seat belt adaptor to fit your child, and others will merely make your child sit higher so the seat belt fits.
You must decide for yourself what car seat you need. We recommend that you buy any of these infant car seats because of the convenience to carry your baby around (you can easily put the car seat on or into shopping carts, which is great). After your child outgrows the infant car seat, we recommend that you buy any of these all-in-one convertible car seats, so you don’t have to buy a booster seat later on since some convertible car seats have a booster seat included.
The Importance Of Installing Car Seats Correctly
We already mentioned how important it is to install car seats correctly. Most car seat users think they know how to install car seats, although they don’t read the manuals.
We were guilty of that too. Our second baby was already over a year when we realized that we had not been installing our car seats correctly all that time. We always thought we had done it correctly!
As said before, studies show that only correctly installed and used car seats can reduce the risk for fatal injuries up to 70%. So, with three-quarters of car seats not installed properly every single year, it is no wonder that so many children suffer unnecessary injuries.
The police and fire departments are trained to install car seats correctly. If you do not feel sure about whether you have done it correctly, pay them a visit and let them help you. That will give you the peace of mind that you have done it correctly.
Make sure you read and understand the manual that comes with your car seat. There is lots of valuable information found in those booklets. Your children deserve that you invest time in getting knowledgeable about car seat safety.
If you are one of those parents that buckle up, but you do not buckle up your child, you need to reevaluate your motives. Your child deserves the same safety that you do, but unfortunately, your child is not safe when you buckle her up the way you do.
Take time to search for the car seat that fits your needs, car, and budget. Consider what type of car seat is best for you and your child. After getting your car seat, study the manual and read about car seats as much as you can.
We understand that reading about car seats is probably not the most interesting thing to do, but so necessary for all parents. We take car seats way too lightly when we have never been involved in a crash where children were injured.
It is time you make a small change in your family by being informed and not doing it only to abide by the law but doing it because of your children’s safety.