Though air bags are effective at preventing death and injury to adults, their sudden force can be deadly for infants and small children. Children and infants should be restrainted in a proper infant car bed, rear-facing infant restraint, forward-facing child restraint, or a booster seat.
A child's weight and height help determine which restraint is best for him. Infant car beds are designed for premature or low birth weight infants. Many parents choose to use a rear-facing infant seat with babies from birth to 20 pounds. Newborns can also be restrained in convertible seats that can also face forward when the child is 1 year old or older. Most children need to stay rear-facing until they reach the rear-facing weight limit on their seat, which is usually anywhere from 30 to 35 pounds.
Children are twice as safe in the back seat of a car than they are in the front seat. The seat should not be able to move more than inch to the front or sideways. The harness should be tight, yet comfortable. In addition, the harness retainer clip should be at the child's armpit level. Blankets or coats should go on top of the harness. When the child is facing forward, the seat should be top-tethered to a designated tether anchor. In a crash, this top tethering could reduce the forward-motion of the child's head by a few inches, which could be crucial.
Some children will need to be in a booster seat from ages 4 to 10 or 12. Parents can know a child is ready to get out of his booster seat when he passes a five-step test. The child should be able to sit all the way back against the seat. The child's knees should bend easily at the edge of the car's seat. The lap belt should only cross the shoulder between the child's neck and arm, and the lap belt should be low and touch the child's thighs. Finally, the child should be able to stay seated like this for the entire trip.
With so many safety guidelines, some parents might worry their child's seat is not property installed. Most police and fire departments provide safety checks for car seats. Also, some areas have car seat technicians to check car seat installation.