Precious cargo: use your child's safety seat correctly

Safety seats save lives, and no life is more precious than your child’s. Taking steps to make sure that your child is properly restrained in vehicles can help prevent him or her from being one of the thousands of children who die or are injured each year in traffic accidents.

Practice these key safety seat recommendations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

1. Infants should be secured in the back seat in rear-facing child safety seats. They should travel that way until they reach the height or weight limit of the particular seat—at a minimum, until they’re 1 year old and at least 20 pounds.
2. Toddlers should ride in the back seat in forward-facing child safety seats when they outgrow rear-facing seats. They should use these seats until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the seat (usually at about 4 years old and 40 pounds).
3. Children who outgrow forward-facing seats should ride in booster seats in the back seat. Kids should use boosters until the vehicle seat belt fits properly—the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at about 8 years old or when children are 4 feet 9 inches tall).
4. Teens who have outgrown their booster seats can sit in the back seat and use adult seat belts if they fit properly. Remember: All children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat.

According to the NHTSA, 3 out of 4 child safety seats are installed improperly. Have your child’s safety seat inspected. Visit www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS to find the child safety seat inspection station nearest you.

Dr. Sarah Libecap, pediatrician at PeaceHealth Medical Group’s University District clinic, contributed to this article. Dr. Libecap is accepting new patients. Call 541-687-6061 to learn more.