The State of Florida says all children under the age of five are required to be harnessed in a car seat during travel in motor vehicles. Sounds simple, right? But it’s not.
In fact, Florida traffic laws have an entire section dedicated to child restraint requirements in a motor vehicle, and every car seat must be crash-tested and federally approved. Despite this, CDC records still show nearly 129,000 children under the age of 12 were either injured or died in car crashes in 2016 alone.
This is because laws can’t prevent every accident or injury – much of the responsibility remains with you. So, in today’s post, we’re going to share some advice and statistics regarding car seat types, positioning, and use so that you can make a more informed decision for your family.
Car Seats and Child Physical Development
Having and using the right car seat can prevent your child from suffering serious injury or death in an auto accident. What does the “right” car seat mean?
There are three different types of car seats to accommodate the developmental stages of your child’s life. Apart from the common protective features, each one has its own set of modifications to ensure the safety of your most precious cargo based on their age, height, and weight.
Infant Car Seat
By far the biggest difference between infant restraints and those for bigger children is that infant seats are designed to be rear-facing. Why? Because rear-facing seats protect newborns’ and infants’ heads, necks, and spines by distributing crash forces across the shell of the car seat (instead of your baby’s body).
Children under 2 simply don’t have the physical strength to withstand the forces of a crash, and turning the seat too early can result in spinal cord, neck, or brain injuries – even in a relatively minor event like a sudden stop.
Convertible Car Seat
This one is designed to accommodate rear-facing for infants, then transition to a forward-facing seat once your child has exceeded height and weight limits for rear positioning.
Note: your child will likely be in this seat the longest. Choose a seat with modifications such as adjustable head and foot rests for maximum comfort as they grow.
One great indicator that your child is ready for a booster seat is when they’ve outgrown the convertible seat, but their knees do not bend at the edge of the regular backseat cushion when they are sitting with their back pressed against the vehicle seat.
Once you’ve chosen your best option, the next most important aspect of having the right car seat is proper installation.
Safe Installation in Your Vehicle
USA Today’s Florida edition reports that properly installing a car seat decreases the risk of a child’s death or injury by 70 percent. However, the CDC estimates 59 percent of car seats are being misused.
How crazy is that?
What can you do to make sure your seat is correctly installed? Once you’ve followed installation instructions, you should have a certified professional double check that everything looks correct. Only certified car seat technicians are legally allowed to inspect your car seat or offer instructions on how to install.
Typically, you can (and have to) stop into your local fire or police station and find someone on duty with the proper certification, or perform a CPS Technician Search online.
When Florida Parents Have Multiple Young Children
The middle of the back seat is the absolute safest location in the vehicle. Whenever possible, your child’s car seat should be installed there. However, when multiple children are riding in the car, that’s not always an option.
One rule of thumb is to always place your most vulnerable child (usually the youngest) in the center of the vehicle. After that, though, there is no statistical data showing a best position for additional car seats.
There are several individual factors you should consider – type of vehicle, behavior of other children, type of car seats, and so on. Many believe passenger side is next safest so as to avoid street traffic when removing the child from the vehicle.
Whatever you do, never place any car seat in front of an airbag (front seat) – they can kill a young child upon impact.
Using the right car seat obviously isn’t a guarantee that your children will now be 100 percent safe, but it should help you to rest a bit easier when out on the road.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.