In Virginia, state law mandates that all children younger than eight be adequately secured in a child safety/booster seat. Studies reveal that rear-facing seats are significantly safer.
With disproportionately heavy heads and underdeveloped neck muscles, infants can suffer significant neck strain when not sitting in a rear-facing seat. Forward-facing seats can result in considerable force to the baby’s neck.
Despite awareness campaigns to educate parents on the need for car seats to restrain their children while traveling safely, many mothers and fathers fall short in protecting their kids. Many still go without restraints, holding children in their laps to share a seatbelt or allowing them to travel in the cargo areas of a larger vehicle. Other parents use second-hand car seats that are six years old or more, and some following accidents, a dangerous “cost-saving measure.”
Getting children to buckle up every time they are in a motor vehicle helps to underscore the importance of seatbelts. Car seats should be chosen based on the child’s age, weight, physical growth, and maturity. Parents should research the history of the company and any past or current recalls.
When installing the seat, follow instructions to the letter and install the seat with the safety belt or LATCH (Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children). Follow the instructions to the letter and ensure that it fits in the vehicle. Ideally, the seat should be placed in the back. Cars that do not have rear seating must have airbags turned off.
Ensure the harness is strapped on the child’s shoulders and chest, making it flat across their body. Harness straps must be snug to minimize slack. Rear-facing car seats should have harness straps through the slots at or below the child’s shoulders. Ensure that the clip is at the armpit level. Finally, ensure the safety seat does not move more than one inch forward or side-to-side.
Motor vehicle accidents can happen in a split-second, changing, if not ending, lives. Protecting all occupants, particularly children, is of paramount importance.