Taking care of a child is one of the biggest, most important responsibilities we have as parents. Keeping our children safe while in the car is a serious task, especially considering that research and data show that car accidents are one of the leading causes of childhood injuries and death.
In order to help minimize the possibility of a child getting injured or dying in a car accident, we need to look at the entire picture of factors and take a holistic approach to safety. Those factors include the safety of the car itself and the appropriate use of a child restraint system.
The Importance of Car Safety
For starters, we should be driving as safe a car as possible. Usually, bigger and higher-sitting cars tend to be safer. Your car should definitely be equipped with advanced safety features like front and side airbags, side screens, seat belt pretensioners, and seat belt loaders that are designed for kids. Further, it is important to have a car with a very good crash test rating. Of course, as far as driving habits go, it is important to obey all laws on the road and adjust your driving according to road conditions.
Unfortunately, even if we follow all of the above-mentioned advice, we still have another factor to consider, one that is out of our control: Other drivers (and their bad habits on the road) can cause an accident even when we are doing all we can to keep our kids safe. Since we cannot possibly guarantee we will not be in an accident, at least we can make sure all the elements that we can control are as safe as possible.
Child Restraint System Safety Guidelines
No matter the car we drive or our driving habits, we should always have our child use a CRS (child restraint system) that is appropriate for their age, height, and weight.
The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), and many other agencies and organizations advocate that children should be in a child restraint system until they are 12 years old or are at least 57 inches tall. However, the practical approach to height will vary since the cars and seat belts in which a child is sitting may vary greatly. Also worth mentioning is that many European countries have adopted a law requiring kids to use a child restraint system until the age of 12, or until they are 135cm tall (almost 54 inches).
Child Restraint System Considerations
There are many different types of child restraint systems on the market. They include:
- Rear-facing infant and toddler car seats
- Forward-facing child car seats
- High-back child booster seats
- Backless child booster seats
- Vests or harnesses
Each of these has advantages and works well in keeping children safe, and there’s not just one CRS that is universally deemed the safest. That’s because safety always depends on many factors, such as the willingness of parents or caregivers to follow the rules of the road, the type of accident, the particular car in which the CRS is used, the knowledge of parents or caregiver on how to use a particular CRS, the child’s physical size, the child’s habits, and so on.
One of the main factors in how safe any particular child restraint system works is how complicated it is to install and use properly. We have to remember that, no matter how well a device performs in safety tests, the more complicated it is to install, the more possible it will be installed wrong. Also, the more complicated it is to use, the more likely it is to be misused and the more inconvenient to deal with the more likely it will stop to be used altogether before the child outgrows it, which is very dangerous. On the other hand, a device that is simple to install as well simple and convenient to use will tend to be used properly and more often, as well as longer.
According to a National Child Restraint Use special study performed by the US Department of Transportation, of all car seats and booster seats installed, 46% are installed wrong with at least one misuse. Out of that 46%, 24% are backless booster seats and 16% are high back booster seats. When drivers were asked, 73% were confident or very confident that the car seat or booster seat was installed correctly with only 1% being not confident.
This is exactly why researchers, engineers, and experts agree that for real-world scenarios, the best CRS checks these boxes:
- Passes safety standards (industry crash tests, etc.)
- Is easy to use
- Is comfortable for child and convenient for parents
Any additional attributes like portability, lightweight, or small size are advantages that make a CRS even better because it can be successfully used in more situations, such as during carpool or when traveling in taxis or Ubers. A product that checks all these boxes has a real chance for saving the most kids from unnecessary injuries or even death.
As we can see, there are many factors that contribute to child passenger safety. In the real world, we are often unable to account for all of these factors, for many different reasons. But no matter what, we always should strive to have our child restrained while riding in the car. If your child is not adequately protected, they are at risk. It’s as simple as that. We go through seasons in life where we cannot control what vehicle we drive, and we can never control the weather conditions or how other drivers behave. Safe and convenient child restraint system, however, is something we can control. If there’s a need there, seek to take care of it as soon as possible.
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