July 19, 2024
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Carseat Safety Review From Your Pediatrician

All children under the age of 8 or under the weight of 80 pounds must be seated in a car/booster seat according to New Jersey law. Children should also not be placed in the front seat, whether with or without a car seat, due to the increased risk of injury from air-bag deployment. The car seat should be fastened tightly, either with a shoulder harness or the newer LATCH system of car-seat anchors permanently mounted inside the car. All new vehicles produced after 2002 have LATCH anchor points in the back seat to allow easy installation of the car seat. The LATCH tether or the shoulder harness should be fastened as tightly as possible to ensure that the seat moves no more than an inch or two in any direction.

A car seat that is not tightly mounted in the car will not provide adequate protection for a child during an accident. Local police departments are often willing to aid parents in securely mounting the seats. One good trick is to have an adult kneel in the seat while a second adult pulls on the shoulder harness or LATCH tether to mount the seat as tightly as possible.

Infants initially start in an infant carrier, a car seat that may detach from a base that is permanently mounted in the car to allow for easy movement of the infant without having to frequently strap and unstrap the baby. Infant carriers are generally designed for infants 5–30 pounds, but aside from the weight limit, it is important to remember that if the infant’s head is less than an inch from the top of the car seat then a new car seat is needed regardless of the weight. The car seat should be mounted rear facing to provide the greatest possible protection during an accident.

Once the infant outgrows his initial infant carrier he may be switched to a reversible car seat with a higher weight limit. These seats are often designed for children up to 40 or even 60 pounds. These seats should initially be mounted rear facing as well. They should only be turned around once the toddler reaches the age of 2.

Once a child reaches around 40 pounds, he may be switched to a booster seat that simply elevates the child sufficiently that the shoulder harness crosses the chest instead of the child’s neck. The booster seat will last until the child reaches age 8 and/or 80 pounds at which point he may sit in the back seat with only a seat belt. It is still not recommended to allow children below the age of 12 to sit in the front seat due to the risk of air-bag injury.

Dr. Robert Jawetz is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.

By Robert Jawetz, MD, FAAP, Tenafly Pediatrics

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