According to the Georgia Department of Law, car accidents are the number one cause of injuries and death for children 1 to 12 years of age. Many of these deaths and injuries are due to a lack of restraints or improper installation of booster or car seats.
However, many parents and caretakers believe their child's car seat is properly installed, but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as many as 8 in 10 car seats have been installed incorrectly, reducing their effectiveness.
Steps to Take to Keep Your Kids Safe
- Make sure your child is protected by a car seat, booster seat or seat belt as is appropriate for their age, height and weight.
- Choose a durable car seat. Longer warranties often indicate higher quality.
- When in doubt, find a car seat with the five-point harness. This is believed to be the safest way to protect your child since the harness secures their entire body rather than just the neck and shoulders.
Follow the car or booster seat's owner's manual for the proper installation steps. If you need help or are uncertain if your child's seat is secure, contact your local fire department, call 1-866-SEATCHECK (866-732-8243), or search for a local child passenger safety technician to inspect the car or booster seat. You can also register your child's car seat to receive safety notifications from the manufacturer.
From birth to two years of age, children should be secured in the back seat in a rear-facing car seat (one that is appropriate for their height and weight). This provides them the best protection possible in case of a car accident, reducing the risk of death for children less than a year old by 71%.
At around 2 years of age, most children outgrow their rear-facing car seats and can now be buckled into a forward-facing seat. Monitor your child's height and weight and upgrade their seat as needed. Correctly installed car seats have been shown to reduce toddler deaths by 54%.
Young Children (5+)
By about age 5, your child should graduate to using a belt-positioning booster seat, which is designed to reduce potential injuries caused by an accident or the seat belt itself. One study found that, compared to seat belts, booster seats reduced the risk of injury by 45% for children 4 to 8 years old.
Use the following guidelines when choosing the right booster seat:
- If your vehicle has low seats and no headrests in the back, use a high-back model.
- If your child sits in a seat with a headrest, you can use a backless model.
- Keep your child in a booster seat until they are the proper age, height and weight to use a seat belt.
When a child is about 12, has reached 4' 9" and is the proper weight, they are ready to use a seat belt. The seat belt should rest across their thighs (not their stomach) and across their chest (not their neck). Older children who wear seat belts reduce the risk of death and serious injury by about half.
- All children under the age of 8 who are less than 4' 9" must ride in the backseat.
- All children under the age of 8 are required to be secured in a car seat or a booster seat appropriate for their height and weight.
- If your vehicle does not have a backseat or if multiple children are secured in the backseat, Georgia law permits a child under the age of 8 to sit in the front if secured in a car seat or booster seat and if the child weighs at least 40 pounds.
- Law enforcement officers can issue a citation if they observe a seat belt offense and do not have to stop a driver for a traffic infraction first.
- Violating any of these laws can result in a fine of up to $50 and one point against your license per improperly restrained child. A second incident may double the fines and points.
- Adults should set a good example by wearing a seat belt at all times.
- Make sure everyone is buckled up before driving, no matter how short the distance or trip.
- If possible, secure children in the middle back seat as this is the safest spot in a car.
- NEVER let a young child or infant in the front seat, even if they are in a car seat. Airbags are designed to save adults, not children.
- Avoid used child car seats or ones that have been involved in an accident.