Ensuring your child’s safety in a vehicle is a top priority, and understanding car seat safety is crucial. This comprehensive guide delves into 35 essential car seat statistics and facts, highlighting the importance of proper usage from rear-facing to booster seats.
We cover everything from the latest data, guidelines, and installation tips, to laws and the different types of car seats.
This article is your go-to resource for safeguarding your children—newborns, infants, toddlers, and older—on every journey. Join us as we explore these vital insights to make every car trip a safe one for your little ones.
Key Facts About Car Seats
If you’re in a rush, here are five quick facts about car seats:
- In 2017, car seats saved the lives of 325 children aged four or under.
- One of the most common car seat mistakes includes using the incorrect recline angle for rear-facing car seats.
- Rear-facing car seats are safest for children up to the age of four.
- Florida has extremely lax car seat laws, allowing children over six to use an adult seat belt.
- Car seats have an expiration date of roughly six years after manufacture.
35 Car Seat Statistics and Facts
Below, we explore 35 vital facts about car seats, organized into five informative categories. By the end, you’ll be armed with the necessary knowledge about the best way to use your child’s car seat.
Car Seat Safety and Fatality Statistics
Using a car seat correctly could save a child’s life. Below are seven facts about the safety of car seats and fatality statistics to illustrate how important it is to install and use the car seat properly.
- Crashes are a leading cause of death: In children between one and 13, car crashes are a leading cause of death (1). A quality car seat that’s used correctly could keep your child safe.
- Car seats save lives: In 2017, car seats saved the lives of 325 children aged four and younger (2). Meanwhile, 40 percent of children killed in car accidents in 2021 were unrestrained (3). This accounted for 308 children.
- Incorrect use: A startling 46% of car and booster seats are not used as intended, highlighting widespread misuse (4).
- How to use a car seat properly: There are three main steps to using a car seat correctly. First, you must find the right car seat for your child. There are four main types: rear-facing, forward-facing, a booster seat, and a car seat. Once you’ve chosen your car seat, install it correctly using the user manual or visiting a car seat inspection station. Finally, register your car seat and sign up for safety updates or recall notices.
- Age recommendation for various car seat types: Use a rear-facing car seat between the ages of birth and three (5). However, the CDC recommends a rear-facing car seat until age four (6). A forward-facing car seat is suitable for ages one to seven. A booster seat is suitable for children aged four to 12. A seat belt is suitable for children eight and up, but only if they have outgrown a booster seat.
- Death rate in 2021: In 2021, over 700 children aged 12 or younger were killed in car accidents in the U.S. (7). Thirty-six percent of these children were not buckled up.
- Restraint use by age: A 2021 study found that the older the child got, the less likely they were to be buckled up. Less than one percent of children under one were not restrained versus 13 percent of children aged eight to 12.
Usage and Installation Statistics
Let’s look at the harrowing potential risks of incorrect installation of car seats.
- Children in the front seat: Children should never ride in the front seat as the airbag can kill them. A rear-facing car seat should never be used in the front seat or front of an airbag.
- Car seat misuse: Fifty-nine percent of car seats (excluding boosters) are misused (8). Smaller studies found that misuse could be up to 85 percent in some areas.
- Most common errors: The most common mistakes of car seat misuse include the incorrect recline angle for rear-facing car seats and loose installation. Loose harnesses and harnesses in the wrong place (i.e., behind the arms) were also included. Finally, improper lap and shoulder belt positions for booster seats were also included.
- Risk of seat ejection: One of the main risks when installing a car seat improperly or securing the child incorrectly is seat ejection (9). This means that the child may be thrown forward or sideways out of the car seat.
- Risk of spinal injuries: When the shoulder and lap restraints aren’t properly adjusted, they may be too loose. During a crash, the child may move sharply upon impact, which can cause spinal or neck injuries.
- Defective car seats: Even if you do everything right, a defective car seat is also dangerous. It’s important always to buy a new car seat that’s never been involved in a crash and choose a high-quality option. Common defects include malfunctioning buckles, substandard materials, and poor padding.
- Wearing jackets in a car seat: Children mustn’t wear jackets or bulky clothing while in the car seat, even in the winter months (10). If you were to get in a crash, the padding of a jacket flattens from the force, leaving extra space under the harness. The child can slip through and be ejected from the seat, or they may experience spinal and neck injuries since the straps aren’t secure.
Facts About Types of Car Seats
There are four main types of car seats. We’ll discuss the different kinds, featuring essential facts about each.
- Rear-facing car seats: There are three types of rear-facing car seats: rear-facing only, convertible, and all-in-one. It’s safest for infants to be in a rear-facing-only car seat (11). Once they outgrow that, they should move to a convertible or all-in-one seat.
- Safety features on rear-facing car seats: Choosing a rear-facing car seat with load legs and anti-rebound bars are excellent for absorbing the energy from a crash. The load legs reduce forward rotation, and the anti-rebound bars protect the child from rearward rotation.
- The safety of rear-facing: Legally, parents can turn their children to forward-facing after six months (12). But rear-facing is safer. You should aim to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible, which can be up to the age of four. Rear-facing car seats can prevent injuries since they fully support the child’s neck and head.
- Forward-facing harness: When you switch to a forward-facing car seat, make sure you choose one with a five-point harness and a tether for your child’s safety.
- Age range for forward-facing: You can use a forward-facing car seat from the ages of one to seven. But keeping your child rear-facing until they reach the weight limit for the rear-facing car seat is recommended. When you switch to forward-facing, keep your child in that car seat until they reach the top height or weight limit. Then, it’s time to switch to a booster seat.
- Booster seat safety: Your child can be in a booster seat from the age of four, but it’s important to move them into one only when they’ve reached the height or weight limit of the forward-facing car seat. The booster seat should be placed in the back seat of the car. They should remain in the booster seat until they are big enough to wear a seat belt safely.
- Seat belt safety: Once your child outgrows their booster seat, they can wear a seat belt, but only if it fits properly. Parents must ensure that the seat belt lies across the upper thighs snugly, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should fit snugly across the shoulder and chest — not the neck or face. Your child should remain in the back seat.
While the legal requirement is to rear-face your child in the car seat for six months, the CDC recommends rear-facing for at least one year. However, many healthcare professionals and car seat companies across the board recommend rear-facing for four years. While this is a mind field for parents, the best thing is to rear-face for as long as possible.
Car Seat Laws By State
Different states have different regulations regarding car seats. Let’s have a look at some important facts and requirements about car seat laws state by state.
- California laws: Children under two or below 40 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat (13). Children under eight or below 57 inches tall must be in a booster seat in the back of the car.
- Florida: Florida requires the child to be restrained in a safety seat if they are five or under. They allow children six or older to use a seat belt. These are very loose laws compared to other states.
- Hawaii: Children under two must use a rear-facing car seat. Children aged two to four can use a rear or forward-facing seat. Children between four and 10 must use a booster seat with a harness. Children between four and 10 who are over 4’9” can use a booster seat with a seat belt, or they can use a seat belt without a booster seat.
- Kentucky laws: A child safety seat is required for children under 40 inches or younger than seven years old. Children between 40 inches and 57 inches can use a booster seat. Children can use an adult seat belt if they are taller than 57 inches.
- Minnesota: Children under seven or 57 inches must use a child safety seat. They can use an adult seat belt after age eight or if they are taller than 57 inches.
- New Jersey: Children under two or less than 30 pounds must use a rear-facing car seat. A child under four or 40 pounds must use a child safety seat. Children under eight or shorter than 57 inches must use a forward-facing or booster seat. When they outgrow their booster seat, they can use an adult seat belt, but only if they are at least eight years old or taller than 57 inches.
- Texas laws: A child must be in a safety seat until they are eight or 57 inches tall. After that, they are allowed to use a seat belt.
If you break your car seat laws, you can be fined anywhere from $10 to $500, depending on your state (14).
Innovation and Design Features
Manufacturers are always looking for ways to make car seats safer. We have compiled seven facts about car seat innovation and design features that make car seats safer for kids.
- Maxi-Cosi 360 Pro Family: Maxi-Cosi has launched a new car seat range with ergonomic features, allowing you to rotate and slide the seat towards yourself (15). This makes it easier to load your child into the car seat so that you can reduce the risk of backache and head bumps.
- Pebble 360 Pro and Pearl 360 Pro: The FamilyFix 360 Pro car seat’s two new sleeping positions allow extended recline. This ensures your child has the best sleeping positions. The Pebble 360 Pro is great for newborns and babies aged zero to 15 months, with three recline positions, including full lie-flat. The Pearl 360 Pro has five recline positions, which is best for toddlers.
- ISOFIX car seats: Many car seats feature an ISOFIX rather than being secured by seat belts. ISOFIX car seats are easier to install and remove from your car. They anchor to the car’s chassis, and removing or transitioning them between multiple cars is easy.
- Cool accessories: Some interesting accessories you may want to consider include cup holders, snack trays, or seat protectors.
- Expiry dates: It’s important to check the expiration date of your car seat. Due to wear and tear, a car seat’s lifespan is limited and requires regular replacement. Generally, a car seat is built to last for about six years, but you should always check with your manufacturer (16).
- FMVSS 213 certification: You should choose a car seat with the FMVSS 213 certification (17). This ensures the car seat meets federal safety standards.
- FAA-approved car seat: When you choose a Federal Aviation Administration-approved car seat, you’re choosing one certified for use on an airplane.
Important Safety Tips and Guidelines
It’s crucial that you use your car seat safely to ensure the best outcome for your child if you were to bump or crash your car. Here are 11 safety tips and guidelines when using a car seat for both the U.S.A. and worldwide:
- Installation: When installing, follow the user manual and check the manufacturer’s video installation guides on YouTube. Once you’ve installed it, bring it to a car seat installation specialist for them to check over.
- Don’t use too many accessories: Mirrors, window shades, and toys can cause injury to your child if you were to crash, especially if they’re suction cupped on. Don’t go overboard on the accessories; if you choose them, make sure they are securely attached. Mirrors are very important, though, especially so you can check if your child is safe in their car seat, especially for long drives.
- Avoid used car seats: Avoid getting a used car seat, especially without checking its instruction manual, the expiration date, and if it’s been involved in a crash. I recommend always getting the car seat from someone you trust if you are going down the second-hand route.
- Placing it correctly: Always place the car seat in the back seat away from airbags. If your car only has one row of seats, always turn the airbags off.
- Register your car seat: Once you’ve chosen and installed your car seat, register it with the manufacturer to stay up to date with safety notices and recall updates.
- Stay rear-facing: Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. Up until the age of three or four is best, but generally, keep them rear-facing for at least the first year.
- Upgrade your car seat: When your child has reached the height or weight limit for their car seat, it’s crucial that you upgrade them to a new size.
- Using a booster seat: Don’t transition from a forward-facing car seat to a seatbelt. Instead, use a booster seat for your child’s safety. They can move to just using a seat belt when their back is against the seat, their knees bend at the edge of the seat, the seat belt is on the top of their thighs (not their tummy), the shoulder belt is between the neck and shoulder, and they can sit properly (no playing with the seat belt) for long drives.
- Tethering the car seat: You should tether every forward-facing car seat to anchor it in the car.
- Remove bulky clothing: Remove coats, bulky clothing, and sleeping bags before buckling up your child. This can leave a gap between the child’s body and the harness, which can cause them to eject from their seat during a crash.
- Tightening the straps: The harness should be tight enough that you can’t pinch the straps with two fingers. But it shouldn’t be so tight that you can’t fit your hand between the strap and your child’s chest.