This may come as a shock, but seat belts were not always a part of the vehicles we drive, let alone car seats. It used to be common wisdom to only have your child contained while the vehicle was in motion. There was no concern about safety whatsoever. There weren’t any seatbelts to anchor them in place.
The car seats we know and need today wasn’t even a concept until the ‘60s, and actual laws and regulations didn’t take effect until the ‘70s. Car seats weren’t even regularly crash tested or had an age requirement until 1985, only 35 years ago.
We have truly come a long way in child transportation safety since then. It is important to be aware of just how grave the situation can be when your little one isn’t secured properly while they’re riding in a five-ton metal machine.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but babies by nature are at a greater risk of injury or death in a car accident. Their bodies just haven’t fully developed yet to take the blows that come with a wreck. This is also why their positioning and seat size is also vital to their safety.
From the time they are born until about two years of age, babies’ spines are still developing. It is not recommended that their car seats face the front because their spinal cord can become stretched and damaged in the wake of a frontal collision (the most common type of car crash). When they’re in a rear facing car seat, the seat then can act as a shield to protect their neck and spines, thus cradling them from the brunt of a crash.
Rear facing car seats don’t have to stop until the child is exactly two, either. Rear facing car seats can be used until the child reaches the weight limit listed on the caution slip inside of the car seat. Your child’s head reaching the top of the rear facing car seat is usually when it’s time to get a front facing seat.
Once your child has transitioned to the front facing seat, be sure to correctly adjust the car seat’s harness along your toddler’s shoulder. You can tell you placed it correctly by seeing the amount of space there is between the strap and the shoulder. If there is a gap wider than your three middle fingers, it is too large.
Your child will typically outgrow the front facing car seat by age four, but it can be used until it reaches the weight limit on the label. Once they do grow out of that, the next seat for your child would be a booster seat. At this point, your baby can use the regular seat belt on its own, but the booster serves as a constrictor to keep your child as safe as possible. Be sure that the booster isn’t too loose around their body and the seat belt.