How Long Do Kids Need a Car Seat?
As parents, making sure that your children are as safe as possible when traveling in the car should always be the top priority.
Like many parents, are you also wondering how long do kids need a car seat for before they can travel safely without one?
The height, weight, and age of your child will all help to determine what kind of a seat will be the safest for them.
Stick with us as we explain the different types of car seats available, the reasons for their use, and the most suitable ages to transition.
We will also present the dangers of inflating airbags, as well as the risks that come with a child riding in the front passenger seat of a car.
Why Do Children Need a Car Seat?
Safety requirements have come a long way since our parents were young.
While they may have been riding in the front seat back then, we now know a lot more about the dangers of that kind of behavior.
For starters, cars have gotten a lot faster over the years, which meant that our safety measures have had to increase to match.
We also possess a lot more knowledge about the catastrophic damage an impact can have on children and adults alike. The roads have gotten busier, and our cities have become more congested.
A correctly installed car seat does the same job as an adult seat belt in the fact that it can save a life. It can be the only thing to protect your child in a life or death situation.
A baby or a child will not be adequately secure just by using a seat belt, so it is essential to use a properly manufactured baby car seat.
Babies and children are more vulnerable than adults, too, particularly around the head, neck, and shoulder area. As such, they require additional support and padding.
It is of great importance to your child’s safety that you do not drive around in a car without the correct equipment for his age.
In most, if not all developed countries, having a child seat is a legal requirement, as is wearing a seatbelt.
Unfortunately, however, car crashes are still one of the leading causes of injury and death for children in the US.
Types of Baby Car Seats
There are many different types of baby car seats that are designed to protect your child in different developmental stages.
Which car seat you use will generally depend on the infant’s weight. Still, there are also several other factors you need to take into account.
1. Rear-Facing Seats (suitable for up to 20 to 35 pounds)
There is one really important factor we have to take into account when installing an infant’s first car seat. They should always face away from the direction in which the car is moving.
The majority of crashes occur with the impact coming from the front or the rear of the vehicle. If your child is in a rear-facing seat, he has a much better chance of survival.
Infants are not developed enough to support the weight of their own head, so in the case of a head-on collision, the seat will protect the torso, neck, and head.
It is recommended that a child is facing the rear end of a car until it is too big to fit in the rear-facing infant seat.
Remember that for the proper development of sensory and motor skills, your infant shouldn’t spend too much time in their baby seat, no matter how convenient it is.
Babies need movement and stimulation as much as possible.
2. Front-Facing Seats (approximately from 20 to 80 pounds)
Once your child has outgrown the rear-facing car seat, he or she can progress to a front-facing car seat.
It is recommended that we make that step forward based on the child’s weight rather than age.
You should still use a car seat that has a full harness until your child has fully outgrown it. Only then can you proceed to a booster seat and an adult seatbelt.
3. Booster Seat
When your child has fully outgrown their front-facing car seat, they can then progress to a booster seat.
It is important that the booster seat is high enough and can be adjusted accordingly as your child grows.
The adult seat belt must secure the child in the right position. It should be fully across the child’s shoulder and torso and not cutting into their neck or body.
Where to Place the Car Seat
It is very important that you do not allow your child to sit in the front passenger seat of a car.
We know this sounds confusing because many parents feel safer with the child in the car seat next to them.
In reality, though, it isn’t safe at all.
Firstly, sitting your child upfront, even in the appropriate car seat, can cause a distraction to the driver while driving.
Secondly, if there is a collision that causes the airbag to inflate, it can cause serious damage to the child with its impact.
If you own a two-seater car or if the booster seat does not fit in the back, then you may be in a situation where you have no choice but to use the front seat.
In this case, you should push the passenger seat as far back as possible to help protect your child from the damaging impact of the airbag.
The Danger of Airbags Explained
Airbags have always been designed with adults in mind, not babies. The average airbag is there to protect a grown man weighing approximately 160 pounds.
Upon impact, an airbag opens with great force, which adults and teenagers can generally endure.
Although, even adult safety depends upon the speed at which the collision has occurred.
When measured, it was shown that airbags opened at around 200 miles per hour. The speed and force can cause some serious damage to a child's head, neck, and torso.
Avoiding Airbag-Related Injuries
It is always safer to keep infants and children in the backseat of your vehicle.
You should secure your child’s car seat properly in the rear of the vehicle, always following the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
All children up to 13 years of age should not only ride in the back of the car but, if possible, in the middle of your back seat.
If riding in the back seat isn’t an option, your car may offer a function that allows you to disable the airbag on the passenger side.
If it does, always disable the airbag when transporting your child in the front seat. Be sure to also utilize the proper car or booster seat.
Of course, don’t forget to switch the airbag again afterward for adult passengers.
How Long Do Kids Need a Car Seat: Conclusion
So, how long do kids need a car seat? The answer is not as easy as it might first seem.
This is mainly because the correct answer depends on the size and level of development of your child, as well as their age.
We highly recommend that all children travel in a specially adapted car seat—be it rear-facing, forward-facing, or a booster seat.
They should do so until the age of 13 or until they are tall enough to safely wear an adult-sized seat belt.
We also recommend that all children stay in the backseat of the car whenever possible. This is to avoid potential airbag damage in the case of a collision.
As a parent, you have many different types and varieties of car seats to choose from.
Make sure you do your research and purchase a car seat that will correctly meet your child’s safety needs.