The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “The Car Seat Finder” is an online took that help you choose the perfect car seat for your child based on their height, weight, and age
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States alone 675 children 12 years old and younger died in motor vehicle crashes, and nearly 116,000 were injured in 2017. Of the children who lost their lives, 35% were not buckled up.
The best way to protect your child against serious injury or death is by securing them in the proper child seat. Car seat use reduces the risk for injury in a crash by 71-82 percent for children, while booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children aged 4-8, when compared with seat belt use alone.
This is why keeping children restrained in car seats or boosters is a law that all parents need to follow. However, choosing the right car seat for your child can be confusing. Not only are there so many factors involved, ranging from their height and weight to the type of car you have, but there are so many options to choose from. Luckily, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has simplified the process of finding the perfect car seats for your family with their handy online tool, “The Car Seat Finder.”
Using information such as your child’s age, height, and weight, the information website instantly offers up loads of useful information, starting with the type of restraint your child should be in (rear-facing car seat, forward-facing carseat, booster, or seat belt) and even suggesting specific brands and models based on the information you provided. For each of their suggestions, they offer even more focused information, such as the exact height and weight limits of each product, when it was manufactured, and “ease-of-use ratings” from the NHTSA.
They also urge the importance of keeping your child in a booster as long as possible — reminding that “many kids 8 to 12 years old still need to use a booster seat. Make sure they ride in a booster seat until they outgrow the size limits of their booster, or until they are big enough for an adult seat belt to fit them properly,” they explain. According to the NHTSA, a properly fitting seatbelt means, “the shoulder belt lies snugly across the shoulder and chest, not crossing the neck or face,” and “the lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach.”
Once your child is “tall enough to sit without slouching and be able to “keep his or her back against the vehicle seat,” “keep his or her knees naturally bent over the edge of the vehicle seat,” and “keep his or her feet flat on the floor,” they may be ready for the seatbelt stage.
A properly fitting seat belt means, “the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach” and “the shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest, and not cross the neck or face.” They also warn to “never let a child put the shoulder belt under an arm or behind the back because it could cause severe injuries in a crash,” to “keep your child in the back seat because it is safer there,” and to “always check your child’s belt fit in every vehicle,” because a “booster seat may be needed in some vehicles and not in others. If the seat belt does not fit properly yet, your child should continue to use a booster seat.”
Finally, until your kids reach the age of 13, keep them in the backseat “for maximum safety.” And, when they do reach the “tween” years, focus on enforcement. “As your child grows, you may face challenges enforcing seat belt safety,” they explain. “Life as a parent is full of compromises, but seat belt safety is never up for negotiation. Follow these pointers and set the example of buckling up every time you get into the car. And remember: Never give up until they buckle up!”
In addition to choosing the right car seat, it is absolutely critical that it is installed correctly. If you need help, the NHTSA has another easy tool to see where you can get a free car seat inspection near you.