Car accidents are the leading cause of death for children under 13. Tragically, many of these children were not using car seats or seat belts at the time of the crash. Often a tragedy can be averted with the proper use of car seats. Having seats set up properly can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers, according 2020 data from the National Safety Council.
Choosing the right car seat
Michigan law requires all children under 8 years of age or shorter than 57 in. (4 ft. 9 in.) tall to ride in a car seat or booster seat. Yet the more important consideration than following the law is keeping your child safe. But a car seat cannot protect a child if it’s the wrong size.
There are four main categories of car seats, booster seats and restraints, each with specific age/size requirements:
Rear-facing car seats are required for babies and toddlers under the age of 2 unless they have reached the maximum weight or height limit designated by the car seat manufacturer.
Forward-facing car seats are for children 2 or older, or those who have exceeded the weight and height limits of their rear-facing seat.
Booster seats are designed for children whose weight or height exceeds the limits of their forward-facing seat. Booster seats are especially important for children ages 4-8 with many finding seat belts ineffective or uncomfortable.
Seat belts are required for children who have outgrown the height and weight limits of their booster seat. In addition, seat belts are mandatory for all drivers, front-seat passengers, and anyone under the age of 16 regardless of their position in the vehicle.
Determining when your child should sit in the front or rear part of the vehicle
Michigan car seat laws specify where children should sit in the vehicle based on age and how many other passengers are along for the ride.
Children under 4 must ride in the rear seat of the vehicle unless all the available rear seats are occupied by other children under 4. Children under the age 4 may ride in a car seat in the front of the car and a child in a rear-facing car seat may ride in the front seat only if the airbag is turned off.
All passengers, even over the age of 8 should wear a seat belt when sitting in the back seat of a vehicle.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting children younger than 13 in the back seat using the appropriate seat or lap/shoulder seat belt. If they must ride in the front, make sure the airbag is disabled.
Avoid these mistakes to increase your safety
More than 70% of car seats are incorrectly installed, which significantly reduces their ability to protect a child in a crash. Before installing a car seat or booster, read the instructions from the car seat manufacturer and the vehicle owner’s manual.
The most common installation mistakes are loose harness straps and failing to fasten the car seat securely in the vehicle. These harness straps should it closely to the child without being too tight to be dangerous. Parents should tighten the seat belt used to fasten the car seat until the "wiggle room" is less than an inch from side-to-side.
It is always advisable to get help installing a car seat or determining which type or size is right for your child. Call your local police or fire station to set up a free appointment. If you do know someone who gets into an accident that injuries your child or one you know, call Bashore Green at 248-487-1887 for experienced auto accident attorneys.