Advocates for Children
College Park Scholars
University of Maryland at College Park
When a child is born there are many things that parents need to buy. Some things are for sleeping and some are for eating and some are for safety. In order for a child to be transported safely in a vehicle you need to have a car safety seat. This does not mean that you can just pick up any old one from a clearance rack and put it into your car. There are different regulations and different requirements that need to looked at for different children. "The child's height, weight, behavior characteristics, and medical conditions need to be assessed and taken into consideration to determine an appropriate restraint device"(Stroup et al. 82). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets standards for car seats. All of the United States have laws requiring children that are very young to be restrained in cars. Every state is different in their laws but usually they only differ in the age of the child that should be restrained and the type of car.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued their own recommendations for car seats. Some of their recommendations include: "Children should face the rear of the vehicle until they are at least twenty pounds and one year of age to reduce the risk of cervical spine injury in the event of a crash. A rear-facing car safety seat must not be placed in the front passenger seat of any vehicle equipped with a passenger-side front air- bag." Another is to "advise parents that the rear vehicle seat is the safest place for children of any age to sit" ("Special Medical Reports" 2310).
Children need to be protected at all times because they do not have the capacity or knowledge to protect themselves. All car seats should be tested to make sure they pass "federal tests regarding such factors as dimensions, strength, structure, and performance in a crash"(Solomon 26). When determining what to get for a child you not only need to look that it passes the federal test but you have to find one that suits your interests and suits your baby. You do not want to buy one that is not going to fit your vehicle or one that is going to either be too big or too small for your child. There are two different kinds of car seats. They are infant seats which are only used up until the baby weighs twenty pounds and the convertible seats which can be used from when the baby is newborn until forty pounds. If the baby is under twenty pounds then the infant seat is more comfortable and the baby fits better. "If used appropriately, existing products provide effective restraint during car crashes"("Special Medical Reports" 2309). Car seats need to be used correctly because if misused then it does not provide the protection it is there for and can sometimes lead to injury.
Whenever you are buying a car seat you need to always "follow both the car's and the car seat's instruction manuals to ensure that the seat fits securely. If it does not, return it for another model. If you buy a car equipped with a car seat, you still need to buy an infant seat for the newborn to twenty pound stage, when the infant must be in a rear-facing position" (Solomon 26).
While different states have different laws for restraint of children, they all say that very young children have to be restrained while in a car. "Most of the states laws cover only very young children; many states no longer require the use of any restraint by the age children begin school"(Wilson et al. 38). If a state does not require a child to be restrained while riding in a vehicle then the parents should at least have the knowledge that in order to keep their child safe they should be buckled up. "Laws permitting primary enforcement have been shown to be more effective that those that permit only secondary enforcement"(Wilson et al. 31). With primary enforcement a police officer can issue a ticket just for the reason of the child not being restrained but with secondary enforcement a police officer can only issue a ticket for that reason if the person is stopped for something else first. Many people who don't keep their children restrained probably think that they are not going to get in any trouble for it so they do not care. If police could enforce this more then children would be safer in vehicles because parents would be more cautious and not want to get a ticket.
Car safety seats are very important in many ways.
Many children are killed each year because they were not
safely restrained while they were traveling in a vehicle.
Parents need to take the initiative and keep their
children safe. Most of the work is done for you and you
can just look on the internet and find which car seat is
best for you. Parents just need to remember to make sure
that the car seat that they are buying has passes all the
necessary tests and the box should have a sticker or say
that it has before buying just any old one on the shelf
that looks nice. Children deserve to be safe while
traveling and it is up to the parent to provide the
Come to see and learn more about car safety seats.
"Special Medical Reports: American Academy of Pediatrics Issues Recommendations for Selection and Use of Car Safety Seats." American Family Physician 15 Nov. 1996: 2309-2310.
Solomon, Barbara. "Today's Safest Baby Gear." Consumers Digest: 22-28
Stroup, Karen Bruner, et al. "School Bus Safety." Exceptional Parent Sept. 1991: 80-87
Wilson, Modena Hoover, et al. Saving Children: A Guide To
Injury Prevention. New York: Oxford University
This paper was prepared in 1997 for a colloquium facilitated by Stephen Wright, instructor for the Advocates for Children program, part of the College Park Scholars community at the University of Maryland, College Park.