When to Turn Car Seat Around

You may not know it, but vehicle crashes are the leading killer of children ages 3 through 14 in the United States, according to the National Safety Council. Child safety seats, seat belts and booster seats offer the best protection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta says putting children in car and booster seats correctly and appropriately reduces serious and fatal injuries by more than 50 percent. But, according to the CDC, most child restraints are used incorrectly in some manner, putting children at unneeded risk.

There are many reasons for using child safety seats. When they're used in the manner they're supposed to be used, they work very well. They reduce the risk of death by up to 71 percent.

Age and weight recommendations

According to the National Safety CouncilR, infants need to ride in a restraint facing the rear of the vehicle in the back seat until the child is at least 1 year old and 20 pounds in weight.

A 2011 policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics advises waiting until age 2 before facing the child forward. Its advice is based mainly on a 2007 study from the University of Virginia. That study found that children less than 2 years of age are 75 percent less likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries in a crash if that child is facing the rear of the vehicle.

Read the manuals

You should read your child restraint manual for instructions on property using the restraint. The manufacturer of your car's safety seat might allow infants to remain facing the rear of the vehicle when the infant weighs more than 20 pounds and is older than a year in age. If that's the case, keep your child facing the rear for as long as the manufacturer recommends it. When your child reaches the manufacturer's height, weight and age limit for facing the rear, switch to facing forward.

If your seat has harness straps, keep them over the child's shoulders and snug. You might need to move the straps to higher slots as your child gets older. The chest clip should be placed at arm level.

The LATCH system

Since 2002, nearly every car seat and most vehicles manufactured on or after Sept. 1, 1992, are required to have the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system.

LATCH makes installing child safety seats easier, without the use of seat belts. Attachments on a LATCH-equipped child safety seat fasten to lower and tether anchors in a LATCH-equipped vehicle.

Other tips

1. When you install the safety seat, it should move no more than an inch to the front or sideways.

2.. A harness should be comfortable but tight enough that the webbing cannot be pinched between your fingers.

3. Never put a rear-facing safety seat in front of a passenger air bag.

The best safety seat is one that fits your child, your car and your family's need for comfort and convenience and is one that you'll use on every ride you take.

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