Car accidents are the leading cause of death for children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not properly securing your child in a car seat or letting them sit in the front seat too soon can be a fatal mistake.
Jessica Winberry with The Players Center for Child Health says parents should consider their child's age, weight, height, the car seat recommendations and if the car seat is properly installed. It could mean the difference between life and death.
A car seat attaches to your car by two locking systems: seatbelt and latch system. Winberry says the seat if attached properly, it should not move more than an inch from side-to-side or front-to-back.
Children under the age of 2 should face the back of the car.
"Your child should be rear-facing because it more protects their neck and spine when they are in a vehicle crash," Winberry said.
Winberry says rear-facing is the safest position for your baby.
Once your child exceeds the age and weight limit, which is usually 40 lbs., the car seat can then be turned around and fastened into a five-point harness.
"They need to be in a five-point harness as long as possible," Winberry said.
She said to think of race car drivers who wear five-point harness seatbelts. It's because they are extremely effective at keeping you safe.
Florida law requires that children be in some sort of child restraint device until they turn 6 years old.
"Kids don't fit properly in a vehicle seatbelt until they are four-feet nine-inches and at least 180 lbs.," Winberry said.
That means, children as old as 12 years old may still need a booster seat for safe traveling.
It's recommended children not ride in the front seat of the car until they are at least 13 years old.
"As a safety advocate I can't emphasize the importance of this enough, it's really important to not only make sure you have the proper seat but make sure you are using it properly," Winberry said.
The Players Center for Child Health offers FREE training and car seat checks. Call 904-202-4302 to make an appointment.