CLEVELAND - Researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said car crashes are the No. 1 killer of children one to 12-years-old in the United States.
The best way to keep your children safe is to have them in the proper car seat, in the right place, and facing the proper direction, according to researchers.
Dr. Michael Macknin, a pediatrician at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, said car seats are especially important for the littlest of kids.
“A car seat is particularly important in the first year of life. It prevents 71% of deaths in the first year of life. It's most effective in the small children, so you absolutely want children, as long as they can, to stay in their car seats,” Dr. Macknin said.
All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are 2-years-old or reach the height and weight restrictions set by the car seat's manufacturer, Dr. Macknin said.
When the child reaches those guidelines, they should move to a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
From there they'll progress to a booster seat with a seat belt until the vehicle's seat belt fits properly, typically when they reach 4 foot 9 inches tall.
All kids under 13 should be restrained in the back seat for optimal protection, and spending more on a car seat may get you a few added features, but no additional protection, Dr. Macknin said.
"They really don't compare seats one to the other as to which one is the absolute best.,” Dr. Macknin said. “They all have to meet minimum standards. Every seat that is on the market and every booster seat that is on the market meets these minimum standards."
Dr. Macknin said to ensure your car seat is installed properly you can check with your local police or fire department, a children's hospital, or the NTSB's website.
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