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How to protect your precious cargo

May 6, 2019

Choose the right car seat. One size doesn't fit all.

As a parent, you would never knowingly put your child in danger. You teach them to look both ways before they cross the street. You encourage them to wear a bike helmet. You slather them with sunblock all summer long. And you make sure they’re buckled up whenever you go anywhere in the car.

Unfortunately, car crashes continue to be a leading killer of children in the United States. And in Minnesota from 2013 to 2017, only half of the children ages 0-7 killed in crashes were known to be properly restrained. During the same time period, 17,436 properly restrained children were involved in crashes, and 87 percent of those were not injured at all.

In other words, child restraints save lives – but only if they’re used properly. In Minnesota, three out of every four child restraints are used incorrectly. So it’s important to have your child in the proper restraint for their age and size, and to secure them in it properly. For example, infants and toddlers should ride in rear-facing car seats until they reach the maximum height and weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

Once your child outgrows their rear-facing seat, it’s time for a forward-facing seat. As with any seat, once you install it, it should not shift more than one inch to the right or left or front to back. And when you buckle your child in, tighten the harness so that you can’t pinch the material. If you can, it’s too loose, and you risk ejection in a crash. They should stay in this seat until they reach the manufacturer’s weight and height limit, too.

Next, it’s on to booster seats. This is a commonly overlooked phase of child restraint, but it’s essential: It allows the seat belt to fit properly on your child’s small body. Be sure to use it with the lap and shoulder belt. This video from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration can help you figure out which seat is right for your child.

Once your child turns 8 or grows to 4 feet 9 inches – whichever comes first – they can use a regular seat belt (until then, they’re required by Minnesota law to be in the proper child restraint). They should be able to rest their back against the vehicle seat with their feet touching the floor. But they should ride in the backseat until they are at least 13. If you want to see videos on how to properly install a car seat, you can find them at You’ll also find information on how to choose the proper car seat, how to get your seat checked, where to get free car seats, and much more.

So keep making sure your child eats their broccoli and goes to bed on time – but take a moment to revisit your knowledge about car seats. You’ll feel better knowing your most precious cargo is safe.