Child Car Seats

Baby in car seatStaying Within the Law and Your Budget

In Georgia, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death and injuries for children ages 1 to 12 years.  The national statistics are sobering - in 2009, 1,314 children were killed and 179,000 were injured, according to the CDC.   

The lack or improper use of car seats is a major contributor to this problem.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4 out of every 10 children under 6 who die or are seriously injured in auto accidents were unrestrained or improperly restrained; however, when car seats are used correctly they are 71% effective in preventing injury among infants and 54% effective with children ages 1-4. 

Realizing the crucial role that car seats play in child safety, Georgia lawmakers passed laws and regulations pertaining to their use.

According to Georgia law:

  • ALL children under the age of 8 whose height is less than 57 inches must ride in the backseat of a car.  A child is safer in the back and farthest away from the force of an airbag.  Remember that airbags are designed to save adults, and since they deploy with great force they can be fatal to children.
  • Children under the age of 8 are required to be in either a car seat or a booster seat suitable for their age and height.
  • If there is not a back seat in the vehicle (e.g., a truck) or if other restrained children are in the back seat, Georgia law permits a child under the age of 8 to sit in front if restrained in the proper car seat or booster and the child weighs at least 40 pounds.
  • Georgia’s Primary Safety Belt Law allows law enforcement officers to issue a citation if they OBSERVE a seat belt offense.  They do not need to stop the driver for another traffic violation first, as in some other states.
  • Violating 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.

Beyond the Law
Experts suggest several other tips to ensure your child’s safety while riding in a motor vehicle:

  • Children under the age of 13 should ride in the backseat.
  • Holding a child in your lap or placing a car seat in the front seat instead of the back could put your child’s life in serious danger.
  • Avoid using a used child car seat or one that has been in an accident.
  • Buckle up even on short trips around the corner.  Most car accidents occur within a 5 mile radius of the home, according to a 2001 study by Progressive Insurance.

How to Shop for a Car Seat
When shopping for a new car seat, consider these important factors:

Safety - Every child safety seat manufactured or sold in the U.S. must meet strict federal government safety standards.  That being said, the seats with the five point harness are thought to be the safest because they restrain your child’s whole body instead of just the neck or shoulders.  Several child advocate websites, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, offer their recommendations for the safest child car seat.

Comfort and Compatibility Your car seat should fit both your child and your vehicle. Bring your child with you when buying a car seat to ensure the proper size, fit and comfort level.

Warranty - A good car seat will be durable.  Check the warranty period included with the seat — the longer, the better.

Price While all cars have the same basic safety features, more expensive seats will provide additional features such as reclining positions, easier installation and cushioning.

Convenience In addition to choosing a car seat that is easy to install and easy to clean, parents can choose from innovative design options such as the car seat/stroller combination, the detachable car seat, or the convertible seat, which converts from a rear-facing infant seat into a forward-facing toddler seat.

Boost Your Safety
Booster seats are the most overlooked part of car seat safety.  The goal of a booster seat is to lessen the risk of injury by helping the seat belt fit properly.  Booster seats are recommended for children 4-7 years old who are less than 4 feet 9 inches tall.

When using a booster seat, remember the following:

  • Use a high back model if your vehicle has low seats and no headrests.  You can use a backless model if your vehicle has a headrest.
  • Use the booster seat until your child meets manufacturer weight limits or fits into a seatbelt properly.

If you are not sure if your child needs a booster seat, you can take the 5-step test developed by Safety Belt Safe U.S.A. at www.carseat.org.

Four Steps to Safety (as recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

 

  Age Limit Weight / Height Limit Comments
Infant Seat Newborn to 1 yr.

Less than 1 yr.
Up to 20 lbs.

20-35 lbs.

These car seats should be rear-facing

For 20+ lb. babies, use a seat recommended for heavier infants
Toddler Seat 1-3 years 20-40 lbs Child needs to be BOTH 1 year old and 20 lbs. or more before placed in a forward-facing seat
Booster Seat From 4 years to at least 8 years Between 40-80 lbs; Under 4’9” tall Booster seat should be used with lap and shoulder belt; Lap belt should rest across the lap-never the stomach
Safety Belt 8+ years Taller than 4’9”  

 

Installation and Inspection
The majority of parents believe that their child’s car seat is properly installed, but according to NHTSA, 8 out of 10 car seats are installed incorrectly. 

For free installation and inspection, contact your local fire department. You can also find inspection stations in your area by visiting http://www.seatcheck.org or calling 1-866-SEATCHECK (866-732-8243) or viewing NHTSA's list of inspection sites.

Further Reading