Think it’s OK to skip buckling up your child on a short trip around town? Think again. A child is involved in a car crash every 33 seconds—that’s 2,600 kids every day—and over 40% of child passengers who are killed in fatal crashes were not restrained. Strapping your child in before you get behind the wheel significantly reduces the risk that your child will die in a car accident. For infants (less than a year old), being in a car seat reduces fatal injuries by 71%. For toddlers (1-4 years old), the reduction is 54%.
The NHTSA reports that car seats saved 263 infant and toddler lives in 2013. At 100% car seat usage, however, they estimate that another 56 kids would be alive today.
However, it’s not just common sense. It’s also the law. In Massachusetts, children must be buckled up in a federally-approved car seat until they are 8 years old or over 57” tall. Children older than 8 or taller than 57” must wear a seat belt.
Recommended Car Seats by Child Age and Size
There are four types of child car seats—infant car seats, convertible car seats, all-in-one car seats, and booster seats. As your child grows, how he or she sits in your car will change. The NHTSA recommends the following progression:
Newborns and small babies should be in a reverse-facing car seat designed just for infants until they outgrow the seat. This usually occurs around 8-9 months.
Keeping your child rear-facing for as long as possible is the best way to stay safe. Children in this age range should ride in rear-facing seats until they outgrow the height and weight limits of the seat.
Your child should ride in front-facing child car seat with a harness until he or she outgrows the height and weight of the seat. When that happens, your child is ready for a booster seat, but only in the back seat.
Your child must stay in a booster seat until he or she has grown big enough to wear a seat belt properly. Again, children under the age of 13 should always ride in the back seat.
Massachusetts Car Seat FAQ
Child car seats can seem intimidating. After all, your child’s safety is at stake. Refer to these Massachusetts car seat frequently asked questions to get answers and put your mind at ease.
Why do infant car seats face backward?
Children have soft bones, stretchy ligaments, and a fragile neck. Because they do not yet have good control over their head and neck, infants facing forward could suffer spinal cord injuries in a crash.
When can my child use a forward-facing car seat?
For the safety of your child’s spine, keep your child in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible. You should only switch to a forward-facing seat when your child outgrows the height or weight limit of the rear-facing car seat.
How do I know when my child is ready for a booster seat?
Booster seats generally require that a child weigh at least 40 pounds. However, a car seat with a harness offers the best protection, so you should keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible.
How do I know when my child is ready for a seat belt?
You’ll know when your children are ready to stop using booster seats when they can:
- Sit back against the seat back without slouching
- Bend their knees over the front edge of the seat
- Wear their seat belt in the appropriate position (lap belt across the hips, shoulder belt across the chest and shoulder)
When can my child ride in the front seat?
Children should not ride in the front seat until they are at least 13 years old. The back seat is always the safest place for a child to ride.
How can I be sure that my child’s car seat is installed correctly?
Always follow the installation instructions for your car seat and vehicle. If you have questions, find your nearest Child Passenger Safety Technician for a demonstration or check.
My pickup truck doesn’t have a back seat. Can I put a car seat in the front seat?
If you do not have a back seat, you may only install a rear-facing car seat in the front passenger seat if you are able to disable the airbag manually.
Defective Car Seats and Booster Seats
In 2017, 6 models of child car seats were recalled by the manufacturer due to defect. These recalls affected 755,000 individual car seats. A defective car seat could fail to protect your child in the event of a car crash or even cause serious injuries to your child all on its own. If your child is injured due to a defective car seat, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Worcester car seat injury lawyer Peter Ventura to discuss your potential claim.