The importance of child car seats

This week I received the following question: “I have a 7-month-old and I believe they have outgrown the infant carrier car seat. I have a convertible car seat and was wondering how I am supposed to use that seat properly? Do I switch the child to forward facing as the pictures show?”

Child Restraint questions are difficult to answer completely without knowing what type of car seat you have, manufacturer’s specifications, the height of your child, type of vehicle, etc. I will explain as best as I can with the information in this question.

A child who is seven months old needs to remain rear-facing in the car, so the convertible car seat is a great choice. The reason younger children and infants are placed facing the rear of the vehicle is because their neck and vertebrae are still developing and their heads are so big and heavy. In the event of a crash, a rear-facing seat will allow your child’s entire body to take the force of the crash.

If your child is transitioned to forward-facing too early, in this case, at seven months, their head is at a much greater risk of being thrust forward in a crash, which presents a very high risk of brain injury, neck injuries, spinal cord damage, or worse.

As a car seat technician, I recommend all children should remain in a rear-facing seat until approximately two years old, or they meet the maximum rear-facing limits, height or weight, of their convertible car seat.

This is also the recommendation supported by Safe Kids, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is VERY important that you are familiar with your car seat’s limitations.

Most convertible car seats accommodate a child up to 35 pounds rear- facing; however, each and every car seat model is different.

Rear-facing is always safer than forward-facing when your child is within the car seat’s limitations for rear-facing.

Once your child has reached either the height or the weight limitations, it is time to transition the convertible seat to forward facing or get a new seat. These seats should go in the back seat of your vehicle and NEVER in a seat with a frontal airbag. I also want to remind parents, new and experienced, that when it is time for a new seat, make sure your seat is not expired or recalled. You can check the car seat recall list at www.safercar.gov.

Also, DO NOT purchase a car seat from a garage sale or second-hand stores. If a car seat has been in a

crash it may be damaged or weakened, even if it still looks intact and in great condition. You need to know

the complete history of the seat before you buy it. If you feel comfortable accepting a seat from a close family member or friend and they provide you with the history, this is not problem at all.

Also, do not purchase seats that are older than six years from the manufacture date. Here in northern Michigan, we have such extreme weather; over 100 degrees in the summer and below zero in the winter, manufactures cannot determine what that does to the plastic that the car seats are manufactured with.

I am a nationally certified Child Safety Seat Technician, and if you have a question about child safety seats, or anything else child-seat related, you can email me your question to asktroopersimpson@gmail.com.

Ashley Simpson is a Community Service Trooper for the MSP Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at asktroopersimpson@gmail.com or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave, Alpena, MI 49707.