With motor vehicle injuries a leading cause of death for American children, riding in the car is easily one of the most risky things parents do with their kids on any given day. But there are ways to make it as safe as possible – and it starts with your car seats.
From infant car seats for newborns to booster seats for big kids and the ever-so-desired privilege of riding in the front seat, following all the rules and recommendations can be overwhelming. It’s no surprise that sometimes people don’t get it right, even when they’re in the spotlight.
So here’s a look at some of the most important car seat safety guidelines that all Michigan parents need to know.
What the state requires
Michigan’s Child Passenger Safety Law requires that all children ride in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4-feet-9-inches tall (whichever comes first), according to the Michigan State Police.
State law also requires that children younger than age 4 ride in the back seat – as long as the vehicle has one. If all rear seats are being used by kids under age 4, then kids can legally ride in a car seat in the front seat – but the airbag must be turned off, if the child’s seat is rear-facing.
Wondering when to turn your baby’s car seat around and let him forward-face? Michigan law allows children to ride forward-facing once they’re 1 year old and 20 pounds, according to Michigan.gov, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids stay rear-facing until age 2 (or whey they reach the height/weight limit of their car seat).
Nicole Capozello, a child passenger safety technician with Beaumont Health, told Metro Parent that the proper use of a rear-facing car seat “makes that child the safest person in the car.”
“I encourage families to keep their child rear-facing until the height or weight limit on the seat,” Capozello says. “If someone tells you do it until a certain age, you should ignore them. It depends on the child.”
Which seat for which age?
After infants and toddlers reach age 2 or outgrow the limits on their rear-facing car seat, the next step is a convertible or forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness, according to the AAP. Toddlers and preschoolers should stay in this seat “for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer.”
After that, it’s time for a belt-positioning booster seat (high-back or backless), which school-age kids should continue to ride in “until the vehicle seat belt fits properly,” the AAP recommends. That’s usually between age 8-12 and when kids reach a height of 4-feet-9-inches.
How to get the right install
Installing a car seat can be tricky, and each car seat – and vehicle – is different. Parents are encouraged to read their car seat manuals and get their car seat installations inspected by a trained technician. To find one near you, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s inspection station locator.
Be aware of recalls, expiration dates
Though manufacturers are required to notify customers about car seat recalls, parents can also sign up to receive email alerts from the NHTSA about recalls.
It’s also important to know that car seats have expiration dates – so be especially careful when buying a used car seat.
For more information on car seat safety, find full details from the AAP at HealthyChildren.org.