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car seat safety, child passenger safety, orange county car accident attorneyAs parents, one of the first steps we take in preparing for bringing home our babies from the hospital is to buy and install a child car seat. However, what most parents may not clearly understand is which car seat is the safest and most age-appropriate for their child. Using the correct car safety seat or booster can help decrease the risk of death or serious injury by more than 70%. 

Also, how you install your car seat can drastically impact the safety of your child in a crash. In general, rear-facing car seats are recommended to reduce the impact of a motor vehicle crash on a child. 

 

Car Seat Regulations 

Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect your child while riding in a car. According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), thousands of children are injured or killed every year because their car seats are not properly installed. 

Current California law:

  • Children under 2 years of age shall ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall. The child shall be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat. (California Vehicle Code Section 27360)
  • Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat.
  • Children who are 8 years of age OR have reached 4’9” in height may be secured by a booster seat, but at a minimum must be secured by a safety belt. (California Vehicle Code Section 27363)
  • Passengers who are 16 years of age and over are subject to California’s Mandatory Seat Belt law. 

California law does not address when a child graduates from a five-point harness to a booster seat. But it is recommended that parents don’t rush to move a child into a booster seat before they are ready. When a child “graduates” to the next seat, there is a reduction in the level of protection during a collision.

 

Why You Want a Rear-Facing Car Seat

The most dangerous thing that children do as part of daily life is ride in a car. Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for children under the age of four. There is no doubt that rear-facing car seats have proven to be safer than front-facing car seats. Odds are that when a serious crash happens, your rear-facing child won’t snap forward into a harness and will instead experience crash forces that are about equally diffused along the car seat.

Moreover, small children (specifically toddlers) have vertebrae that consist of small bits of cartilage, which will fuse into bone over time as their body grows. Before the age of 2, there is only a 50% chance that the vertebrae in the neck have finished converting from cartilage to bone. And in most cases, children won’t have a fully reinforced spine until age 6. When a toddler is jerked forward in a crash, the spinal cord stretches beyond the point of no return. The harness in a front-facing car seat does little to protect your child’s spinal cord from snapping in the event of a high-speed crash. 

The bottom line is that kids should stay in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible – at least until the age of two and as long as they fit the manufacturer’s height and weight speculations. New evidence over the past decade prompted the American Academy of Pediatric (AAP) to promote this recommendation to all parents.  

 

How to Use a Rear-Facing Car Seat Correctly

A rear-facing car seat is only safe when used correctly.

  • Position harness straps at or below shoulders for rear-facing.
  • Position chest clip at armpit level. The harness must be tightened snugly.
  • Install seat at the correct angle and through the correct belt path as per instructions.
  • The child should have no less than 1″ of car seat shell above their head (unless otherwise specified in the manual).
  • The car seat should be installed with LATCH or Seat Belt, never both (unless otherwise specified by car seat and vehicle manufacturers).
  • The car seat should be installed with no more than 1″ of movement side-to-side or front-to-back at the belt path, with LATCH or locked seat belt. 

 

The Dangers of an Improperly Installed Car Seat  

A motor vehicle crash can result in serious injuries to all occupants. However, when a small child is involved in the collision, the injuries they suffer can be much more catastrophic. When car seats, regardless of whether they are rear or front-facing, are improperly installed, the resulting injuries can be even greater. Below are some of the more common injuries children can suffer in a motor vehicle crash due to an improperly installed car seat:

The only way to reduce the likelihood of your child suffering from any of these injuries is to ensure they are in the right car seat that is professionally installed in your car. This includes making sure the car seat is installed rear-facing for as long as possible.

 

How to Choose the Right Car Seat

There are three main types of car seats: infant car seats, convertible car seats, and booster car seats. When choosing a car seat, the two important things you will need to consider are your child’s age and size. Although you may have many options and may even be able to graduate to the next car seat, q growing body of research proves riding rear-facing is safer for babies and children than riding in a forward-facing car seat. If possible, always choose a convertible seat that has a high rear-facing weight limit so you can extend the opportunity to rear-face for as long as possible.

 

Contact an Experienced Orange County Car Accident Claim Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another party, you should discuss your legal options with an attorney as you may be entitled to compensation. The Orange County car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates can help! With multiple offices located in Irvine, Los Angeles, El Segundo, San Diego, and Riverside, personal injury lawyers represent car accident victims across Southern California.

The Orange County car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates advocate for their clients’ full financial recovery through hard work and an aggressive approach. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our attorneys, please call 949-727-9300.