As a parent, you do everything you can to protect your child — including putting them in a car seat. But did you know that there really isn’t much of a difference between that $50 Cosco seat and the $450 Nuna Rava? They all have to meet the same National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards.
When choosing a seat, it’s smarter to focus on fit, not price. “The safest car seat is one that fits your child (height, weight and developmental needs), fits your car, and that you can safely and correctly install and use every time,” said Denise Devonish, Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) and owner of DMD Health and Safety Training Services.
Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for children and young adults ages 3 through 19; and unfortunately, it is estimated that 46% of car seats and booster seats are misused in a way that reduces their effectiveness, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
We all have the best intentions, but regrettably, car seat safety courses aren’t a requirement for having a baby, and there is a lot of bad information out there about car seat best practices. Devonish said that the most common misconception she hears from parents is regarding when a child should be turned from rear facing to forward facing. “A child should remain rear facing as long as the child is able to, based on the car seat recommendations,” she said. For example, the Britax Boulevard ClickTight has a 40-pound, 44-inch rear-facing limit, meaning that a child within those limits can safely rear face, regardless of age or if their legs look cramped.
Florida Statute 316.613 states that children 5 years of age or younger need to be protected by a “crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device.” However, there is no current law in Florida dictating when children should be turned from rear to forward facing, or how parents should protect their children over the age of 5.
“Child passenger safety advocates in Florida have been encouraging extended rear facing, extended use of harnesses and extended use of booster seats for over 15 years,” Devonish said. “We have worked hard to advocate for changes in state laws that would provide better protection for the children in our communities.”
According to Devonish, there is ample crash test data showing the effectiveness of extended rear facing, harness use and booster seat use in keeping children safer. It has also been shown that young children, especially under the age of 2 years old, are far less likely to be killed or suffer a life- threatening injury when rear facing.
“They do not have the bone strength and muscle development to support the movement of their head,” Devonish said. “When children are rear facing, the car seat is designed to absorb the crash forces with what we call the ‘ride down.’ The car seat rocks almost like a rocking chair while fully secure in the belt path.”
On the other hand, “when children forward face in a car seat, their head, neck, spine, arms, legs and hips absorb all of the shock and movement from the crash forces,” she said.
➜ For more information on the best car seat practices, visit nhtsa.gov/equipment/ car-seats-and-booster-seats