It wasn’t so long ago that people could legally drive without wearing seat belts. While safety belts became a mandatory addition to vehicles in 1968, it wasn’t until 1986 that California law required drivers and passengers in vehicles to actually wear a seat belt.
1985 saw the passage of the first child passenger safety laws, requiring children under a certain age to be secured in a car seat with the aid of a seat belt. Incredibly, California only recently passed a law in 2011 that required that children up to age eight — or alternately, at a height of 4’9” — to be secured in a car seat.
Of course, not just any car seat will do. If you want to comply with the law and keep your kids safe while driving the dangerous streets of Los Angeles, it’s imperative that you choose the right car seat and install it properly.
Here’s what you need to know about car seat safety if you want to protect your kids.
Safety by the Numbers
According to the CDC, auto accidents are among the leading causes of death for children aged 12 and under in the U.S., with over 600 deaths in 2018 and over 97,000 injuries. Unfortunately, 33% of reported deaths were linked to children not being buckled in securely.
The good news is that proper use of car seats and safety belts can significantly reduce the risks for injury and death when children are involved in car accidents. Car seats have been shown to reduce the risk of injury by an incredible 71-82% (over safety belt alone), while adding a booster seat for children aged 4-8 reduces risk of injury by 45%.
Only a handful of states have changed their laws to mandate the use of car seats or booster seats for children up to age 7 or 8. Studies have shown that rates of fatal or incapacitating injuries among children involved in car accidents decreased by 17% in those states.
In other words, the proper usage of car seats and booster seats is one of the best ways to protect children in the event of an auto accident.
Choosing the Right Car Seat or Booster Seat
As children grow, it’s only natural that their car seat should grow with them. A car seat designed to protect an infant simply doesn’t work for a much larger child. How do you know which car seat is right for your child?
You’ll start with a rear-facing car seat, which is designed to accommodate infants and toddlers up to the age of about 2-4. California law mandates that children under the age of 2 ride in a rear-facing car seat unless they weigh 40 or more pounds or until they are 40 inches tall, at minimum.
When children outgrow a rear-facing car seat, they should be placed in a forward-facing car seat or booster seat, depending on current age, weight, and height recommendations. Once children reach the age of 8 or a height of 4’9”, they may be secured by a safety belt alone without the necessity for a booster seat in the state of California. That said, the CDC recommends that parents continue to use a booster seat up to the age of 12 or a height of 4’9”.
For safety reasons, children should always ride in the back seat of the car, and whether they’re in a car seat/booster seat or not, they should always be secured with a safety belt.
Proper Car Seat Installation
Car seats come with manuals designed to ensure that you install the seats properly. You’ll want to use the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system in your vehicle to secure your car seat, make sure that the safety belt is properly and securely threaded through the car seat where indicated, and check that the harness is not slack.
If you have trouble securing a car seat on your own, SafeKids.org can help you to find a child passenger safety technician in your area to teach you how to safely and securely install your car seats.
In the Event of an Accident
Proper use of car seats and booster seats can go a long way toward protecting your child in the event of an accident. If, however, your child is injured in an accident, despite preventive efforts, you need to take steps to ensure that all of their medical and other expenses are covered.
As with all accidents, collecting the right information (police report, witness statements, medical records and bills, etc.) can give you the leverage needed to secure a fair settlement.
If you’re struggling to deal with insurance providers who are intent on delaying or denying your claim, you may need a trusted and qualified California lawyer to guide you through the process and fight for compensation on your behalf. The friendly and experienced professionals at Lalezary Law Firm not only have a track record of winning cases like yours, but you’ll never pay fees unless we win your case.
Contact the expert Los Angeles attorneys at Lalezary Law Firm today at 888-778-8888 or online to request a free consultation and to discover what we can do for you. We Fight. You Win. They Pay.