Child Passenger Safety
Car accidents are the number one killer of children in the United States.
The state of Kansas has child restraint laws for children under the age of 8 (as defined in KSA 8-1344.) All infants under age 1 AND 20 pounds must be rear-facing.* Ages 3 and under are required to be in a car seat with a harness, and ages 4 to 7 who are less than 80 pounds or 57 inches must be in a car seat or a booster seat. Ages 8 and over (including adults) must wear a seatbelt.
*Kansas does not have a specific rear-facing requirement. However, there are no US-certified car seats that allow a child under 1 year AND 20 pounds to forward-face. Car seat minimum requirements also include a height component. Kansas is a proper-use state, which means misusing a car seat is illegal. Make sure you choose the correct seat for your child.
Please note that these are minimums. To maximize occupant protection, child passenger safety advocates recommend the following:
- Rear-face as long as possible. A 2007 study shows it is five times (500%) safer in a car accident than forward-facing for toddlers between the ages of 12 and 23 months.* A broken neck or internal decapitation in a 1-year-old during even a minor accident is a possibility. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends rear-facing to age 2, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends rear-facing to the limits of your car seat.
- Harness your child until developmentally ready/mature enough to move to a booster. A five-point harness keeps kids properly positioned in their seat and distributes the crash forces across the torso. The AAP and NHTSA recommend harnessing til the seat is outgrown by height and/or weight.
- Boosters are for big kids! Highback boosters provide extra side impact protection and are acceptable for children who have outgrown a harnessed car seat (at least age 4.) Backless boosters are recommended when the child has outgrown a highback booster and can stay in position the entire ride. Without a booster seat, the lap belt hits on the soft part of the belly, causing internal injuries and death in an accident.
- Seatbelts are fitted to ADULT bodies. Children should only be out of a booster and in just a seatbelt if they can sit all the way back against the auto seat, legs bent at the end of the auto seat, shoulder belt crossing between neck and arm completely on the shoulder, lap belt crossing between the hip bones and thighs (not the belly), and they can sit still like this the entire trip. We refer to these five steps as the 5 step test, and most kids 5 step between ages 10 and 12.
*Henary, B. "Car safety seats for children: rear facing for best protection." Injury Prevention. 13.6 (2007): 398-402.
A quick overview of child restraints: Infant seats (bucket carriers with a handle) are to be used rear-facing ONLY. Convertible seats can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing. Combination seats can be used foward-facing ONLY either with the harness or with the seatbelt as a booster. Booster seats, also called belt-positioning boosters, are to be used with a lap/shoulder belt.
Did you know? At least 80% of parents/caregivers believe they have their seats installed and used correctly, but 90%+ of them don't! ***Please read the manual for each separate child restraint you are using. All restraint instructions are not created equal.***
For an excellent pictorial on proper car seat usage, please click here.
Finally, remember: you are only as safe as the most dangerous driver on the road. Give yourself and your passengers as much protection as possible.
For more information on child passenger safety or to schedule a free car seat check, please contact certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, Kate Evans, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-260-7828.