The leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13 years old is car accidents. According to accident information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 2 children were killed and 345 injured every day in 2013. Approximately half of the fatalities could have been prevented if proper child safety seats were used.

September 13 kicked off Child Passenger Safety Week. At Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, we know the tragedies that can occur when children are involved in auto accidents. Our car accident lawyers in Houston, Texas, want to help raise awareness among parents and caregivers.

There are two key elements to child passenger safety: the right child restraint and proper installation.

Choosing the Right Seat

When you’re shopping for car seats, there are so many options to choose from that it can easily become confusing and overwhelming. Before purchasing any seat, it’s important to read the manufacturer’s specifications to know the weight and height limits allowed by that brand, for both forward-facing and rear-facing options.

These additional guidelines can help you pick the safest seat for your child’s age:

Birth-12 Months Old: In accordance with Texas law and the best safety practices, children younger than 1 year old should ALWAYS ride in a rear-facing car seat, whether a rear-facing only infant seat or a convertible car seat with a rear-facing option.

Ages 1-3: While the law requires children to rear face until 1, it is HIGHLY recommended that they stay in this position until reaching the top height or weight limit allowed by your seat’s manufacturer.

Ages 4-7: Children who have outgrown rear-facing seats should ride in a forward-facing seat with a harness until reaching the top height or weight limit allowed by the seat’s manufacturer.

Ages 8-12: Once your child has outgrown a forward-facing harness, he or she is big enough to ride in a booster seat until big enough to fit a seat belt properly. A seat belt properly fits when it lies snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt lies snug across the shoulder and chest.

Installing Seats Correctly

Before installing a car seat, always read the instructions. Every seat may have slightly different installation directions, but these are some important points to keep in mind.

Seat location: No matter what type of child restraint you use, it should always be used in the BACK SEAT of the vehicle. Children shouldn’t be allowed to ride in the front seat until at least age 13.

Securing the seat: When a car seat is properly installed, there should be no side-to-side or front-to-back movement of more than an inch.

Fitting your child in the seat: Once the seat is securely installed, it’s important to also ensure that your child is fitted into the seat correctly. Harness straps should always lie flat, not twisted. In a rear-facing seat, the straps should go through the back slot at or below the child’s shoulders. In front-facing, the straps should be placed through the slot at or above the shoulders. The harness should be snug enough that extra material cannot be pinched at the shoulder, and the chest clip should be at armpit level.

While many child car accident injuries and deaths can be prevented by proper restraints, this is not always the case. If your child was injured because of another driver’s negligence or because of a vehicle or car seat defect, contact the Houston personal injury lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers today to discuss your legal options.