You wouldn’t send your kid rocketing off on a rollercoaster without safety restraints, right? Well, perhaps even more irresponsible than that is letting them cruise in your car without the proper safety equipment.
Kids’ little bodies aren’t built to withstand the “adult” protection of seatbelts and airbags like you are. In fact, what would save your life could kill your child. Fortunately, there are some great pieces of child protective equipment out there that will keep your kids safe at any age.
Between the ages of 0-2, babies and toddlers should be kept in a rear-facing car seat. These should never, ever, be put in the front seat (where airbags could launch your child into the seat) but, rather, strapped safely in the back.
As your child hits about 2 years, they are ready to upgrade to a front facing car seat. These must also be kept in the back seat, because the front-seat air bag would crush your child in an impact. It’s a morbid picture – just don’t go there.
Once your child grows out of his/her car seat, they can graduate to a booster seat. These (obviously) “boost” your child up in the seat so the across-the-shoulder belt rests properly against their body.
You’ll want to make sure the shoulder strap doesn’t slip up onto their neck and that the lap belt doesn’t rise up against their belly. Never let your child slip the shoulder strap behind their back or under their arm. In an accident, this can cause them serious harm.
There is no official “booster seat graduation age” because all kids grow at different rates. Just make sure that the seat belt fits nicely before you say goodbye to boosters forever!
Finally, make sure your kids stay in the back seat until they are at least 12 or 13. The impact of an airbag can really hurt anyone who is too small and light. No matter how much they whine or beg, don’t ever put your child’s life at risk when driving. They’ll have plenty of time to ride shotgun when they are older!