Automobile accidents make up the largest number of accidental deaths in children. Why then, would it be commonplace for parents to disregard car seat laws and recommendations?
According to Cyber Drive Illinois, state law requires all newborns to be in a rear-facing car seat. At age one and a minimum of 20 pounds, a safety seat can be turned around so that the child is forward-facing; however, the most recent recommendation is to remain in a rear-facing position until age two and the upper height & weight requirements have been met. Beginning at age 4, booster seats are acceptable but with such varying styles & sizes, it can be difficult to understand what is safest or most appropriate.
In addition to state regulations, each car seat manufacturer is required to include height and weight guidelines as well as expiration dates. This combination of generic guidelines and state laws can complicate a parent's decision. With so many expenses relative to babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, it makes sense that parents want to get the most from each car seat that they purchase.
There are the common arguments:
1. A rear-facing seat makes it more difficult to get the child in & out and it makes it nearly impossible for parents to keep an eye on baby while driving.
2. A second child means buying another seat (or seats for each car) so moving the older child into the next level would allow the original seats to be passed down even if it's a little pre-mature.
3. Convertible seats allow you to get more for your money and change seats less often even if the specifications are slightly out of your child's range.
4. A backless booster is cheaper and more transportable and children don't really need a cushy booster with a high-back, drink holder and storage compartments.
While all are valid issues, none warrant the risk a parent is taking when choosing to improperly secure a child in a vehicle.
Child protection laws exist to do precisely that - protect children. The manufactures guidelines and other safety tips are added ways in which a parent can be extra careful. For example, it is recommended, but not required, that a child always travel in the backseat until age 12. Keep loose objects safely stowed outside the passenger area to avoid any flying objects causing physical harm to a young passenger or the impairing the driver.
The bottom line is: do cost and convenience outweigh the risk? It is inevitable that a child travel by car, so why take unnecessary chances?