As of May 26, 2017, all child passengers under age two must use a child seat with a rear-facing harness, unless the child turned one year of age prior to May 26, 2017. Children under age two must be securely fastened in a car seat with harness or in a booster seat until they reach age eight or 4’9” in height and the adult belt fits them properly.

How Important Are Child Passenger Safety Restraints?

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages one through twelve years old. In 2015, 20 percent of the 981 children aged eight and under that were injured in Oregon traffic crashes were using adult belts or no restraint at all. Nationwide in 2015, a total of 663 passenger-vehicle occupants aged twelve years or younger died as a result of a crash, and nearly 132,000 were injured. Among the children who died, 35% were known to be unrestrained. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says “to keep child passengers as safe as possible, drivers should use age- and size-appropriate restraints for all child passengers until adult seat belts fit properly.”

Choosing the Right Child Car Seat for Your Vehicle

Not all child car seats fit in all vehicles. Make sure the car seat you choose is the right fit for your vehicle and can be installed and used correctly every time. Test the car seat you plan to buy to make sure it fits well with your vehicle. The label on the seat tells the type of vehicle best for the seat and where on the vehicle to install it. Be sure to register your new child car seat, so the manufacturer can inform you if there is a recall. You should only purchase a new child car seat, never a used one or one that has been involved in an auto accident; and if you are involved in a crash, replace the child seat.

What Type of Car Seat Is Right for Your Child?

It is important that you use a car seat that fits your child’s current size and age, which will change as your child grows. All children up to age twelve or thirteen should ride in the back seat. There are four basic types of child car seats:

  • Rear-Facing Car Seat
  • Forward-Facing Car Seat
  • Booster Seat
  • Seat Belt

Rear-Facing Car Seat: the best seat for a young child, it has a harness and, in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child’s neck and spinal cord. You should keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your child car seat’s manufacturer. There are three types of rear facing child car seats:

  • Infant Car Seat – designed for newborns and small babies, it is a small, portable seat that can only be used rear-facing, so when your child outgrows the seat after about eight or nine months you should purchase a convertible or all-in-one car seat and use it rear-facing.
  • Convertible Seat – this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether as a child grows. Because it can be used with children of various sizes, children can stay in the rear-facing position longer.
  • All-In-One Seat – this seat can also change from a re-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether, but also to a booster seat as the child grows. It can be used by children of various sizes, so it allows for children to stay in the rear-facing position longer.

Forward-Facing Car Seat: has a harness and tether that limits your child’s forward movement during a crash. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, after about three or four years of age, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. There are three types of forward-facing car seats:

  • Convertible Seat: as a child grows, this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether.
  • Combination Seat: this seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether into a booster seat as your child grows.
  • All-in-One Seat: the seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether and to a booster seat as a child grows.

Booster Seat: once your child outgrows a forward-facing car seat with a harness, it is time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat. Keep your child in the booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. There are four types of booster seats:

  • Booster Seat with High Back: this seat is designed to boost the child’s height so that the seat belt fits properly and supports head and neck. It is ideal for vehicles that don’t have head rests or high seat backs.
  • Backless Booster Seat: it is designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. Because it does not provide head and neck support, it is a good choice for vehicles with head rests.
  • Combination Seat: this seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness to a booster seat as the child grows.
  • All-in-One Seat: this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether and to a booster seat as the child grows.

Seat Belt

For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Your child should still ride in the back, where it is safer.

National Child Passenger Seat Check Saturday September 23rd

During this year’s National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 23rd has been designated “National Seat Check Saturday.” On this day, drivers with children who ride in car seats or booster seats are encouraged to visit a child safety seat inspection station to have a certified technician inspect their car seat for proper installation and use. For a list of child car seat check events in Oregon see: http://www.oregonimpact.org/car-seat-resources.htm.

Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, through its Tom Sargent Safety Center Car Seat Program, also offers car seat checks by certified child passenger safety technicians, who work individually Monday through Friday by appointment only with families, to provide installation education and support at no cost. To make your reservation, call 503-494-3735 or leave a message with your contact information at safety@ohsu.edu.

The Tom Sargent Safety Center –Inspection Station is located at: OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Garage F, Level 4, 700 S.W. Campus Drive, Portland Oregon 97239.

Bring your car’s owner’s manual and booklet that came with your child car seat when you meet with a certified child passenger safety technician. Working with the technician will be a one-on-one learning experience. When you leave, you should feel confident about the installation and feel comfortable re-installing it on your own.

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