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Keeping Kids Safe - Car Seat Safety

mom placing toddler in car seat

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1-13 and properly restrained children have a more than 50 percent greater chance of surviving a crash. In 2017, 325 children under the age of 5 were saved by car seats. This is why choosing the right car seat or booster for your child’s height and weight is so important. You know you need them, but do you know what Michigan’s Child Passenger Safety Law requires? 

The Michigan Child Passenger Safety Law requires all children to be properly buckled in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4-feet-9 inches tall. Children must ride in a seat until they reach the age requirement or the height requirement, whichever comes first. Children younger than age 4 are to ride in a car seat in the rear of the vehicle if the vehicle has a rear seat. If all the available rear seats are occupied by children under 4, then a child under 4 can ride in a car seat in the front, only if the airbag is turned off. 

As children grow, how they sit in your car will change. Make sure you are using a car seat that fits your child’s current size and age. The NHTSA has an online search to help determine which car seat is recommended for your child based on age, height, and weight, available at safercar.gov/therightseat

Even when using the appropriate car seat, it must be properly installed for optimum effectiveness. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning states that three out of four car seats are not installed properly. The most common errors are easy to fix with only a few small adjustments. Below are common errors with suggested adjustments.

  • Harness straps are not tight enough: Harness straps should fit snug to the child’s body and should pass the “pinch test,” meaning you should not be able to pinch any excess strap material.

  • The car seat isn’t installed tight enough: Car seats, whether installed with the seat belt or LATCH system, should not move more than one inch from side to side when tested at the point where the car seat attached to the vehicle. 

  • Moving children to the next step too soon: Children should stay in their car seats until they outgrow the height or weight limit of the seat before moving to the next step, such as rear-facing to forward-facing. 

  • The chest clip is too low: The chest clip should be secured at the child’s armpits to ensure straps remain in the correct position.

  • Putting kids in the front seat too early: Children should ride in the back seat of the vehicle until they reach 13 years old. The force of an airbag may be too intense for children under the age of 13. 

If you are concerned whether the seat you have is appropriate for your child, check the label on the car seat or booster seat. Look for the weight, height, and age limits to make sure the car seat is right for your child. Take the time to ensure your child is safe when traveling out on the road.