As soon as your little one comes into your life, that parental instinct kicks in, and you’d do anything to protect them. Despite this, motor vehicles are still one of the leading causes of death among children in the United States, and it’s because many kids aren’t properly secured in their car seats. These protective restraints reduce the risk of a fatal injury in a crash by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers.
Below, our personal injury attorneys will explain one of the questions we hear most often from parents: Does my child need a car seat?
Rear-Facing Car Seats
The best seats for newborn infants and small children are rear-facing car seats. Their harness cradles your child and reduces the amount of stress on their bodies in the event of an accident.
According to California law, all children under the age of two must be in rear-facing car seats in the back of the car, and they must be kept in this type of car seat until they weigh at least 40 pounds OR are at least 40 inches tall.
Forward-Facing Car Seat
Once kids outgrow that legal limit, they can move into a forward-facing car seat. The 5-point harness system (one over each shoulder, one over each thigh, and the clip over the chest) is widely known as the safest restraints for toddlers.
Children are ready for booster seats when they have outgrown the front-facing car seat, but not until their seat belts fit properly. Kids may be resistant to using these seats, often feeling like they are ready for seat belts, but that isn’t the case. Children under 8-years-old using a booster seat are 59% less likely to be injured in a crash than children who are only using a seat belt.
Under California’s law, you must keep your child in a booster seat until they are 8-years-old OR have reached 4’9” in height.
Graduating to Seat Belts
Once children have reached the legal limit for booster seats, they are officially allowed to graduate to seat belts. However, it may be safer to keep them in the booster. One way you can tell is by giving them the 5-Step Test, which is as follows:
Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm, resting on the collarbone?
Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
If your child suffered injuries in a car accident at the result of another driver’s negligence, don’t wait to seek legal advice.