What is a child safety seat?
Child safety seat is another name for a car seat. There are several different types of child safety seats, including infant seats, convertible seats, and booster seats. Each type of seat has specific age, height, and weight restrictions, and must be installed in a particular way. The law in New Mexico requires all children up to their 7th birthday, regardless of weight, and all children less than 60 pounds, regardless of age, to ride in a child safety seat (car seat or booster seat). The law also states that children ages 7 to 12 must ride in a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits them properly.
What type of seat does my child need?
Rear-Facing Child Safety Seat
Young children have heavy heads and small, flexible bodies. Facing the back of a car, truck, or van in a rear-facing car seat is safer than facing forward, because the child safety seat supports the child's head and neck and spreads energy across the entire back and body in case of a crash.
By law, all children must remain rear facing until they are at least 1 year of age and 20 pounds; however, children between the ages of 1 and 2 are 5 times less likely to be injured in a crash rear facing compared to forward facing! ALL children should stay rear facing as long as possible, up to the weight or height limit of a rear-facing seat (most convertible models can be used up to 30 or 35 pounds).
Forward-Facing Child Safety Seat
As children grow older, they still need extra protection. The straps on a forward-facing safety seat adjust to fit small children and spread crash energy across the strongest parts of their body – shoulders, chest, and hips. Children should ride in a forward-facing child safety seat with a harness until they reach the height or weight limits of the seat – most models can be used up to 40 pounds, but some go to 60 pounds or more.
Older children aren't fully protected by seat belts that don't fit correctly. The belts need to be on the strong and bony parts of a child – not on the soft belly or neck – and they should never be behind a child's back or under an arm. A booster seat raises the child and guides the lap and shoulder belts so they fit the child correctly. It helps prevent injuries and makes the child comfortable. Children should ride in booster seats until the vehicle seat belt fits correctly. Booster seats must be used with both lap and shoulder belts. Booster seats cannot be used with a lap belt alone.
Children who have outgrown child safety seats and booster seats should use the lap and shoulder belts in cars, trucks, and vans. The seat belt contacts strong areas of a child's body and spreads crash energy over a wide area. To see if the belt fits correctly, have the child sit all the way back on the vehicle seat and buckle the belt. The child’s knees should bend naturally over the seat edge, the lap belt should stay snug across the upper thighs or hip bones, and the shoulder belt should stay against the chest and shoulder. If the seat belt does not fit correctly, the child should remain in a booster seat.
Kids should ride in a back seat until age 13!
Which child safety seat is the best?
Safer does not recommend or condemn any specific brand or model of child safety seat sold in the United States, unless it has been recalled. The best child safety seat for you is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, and is used consistently and correctly. The seat you choose should be free of recalls and should have labels indicating it meets all appropriate federal standards. You should never use a child safety seat that has been altered, is missing parts, or has been involved in a moderate to severe crash.
What is the law in New Mexico?
All occupants must be properly restrained in all seating positions. Violators must pay a $25 fine plus court fees (which vary by jurisdiction) and receive 2 driver's license points against their driving privilege.
A child under age 1 must ride in a rear-facing child safety seat in a back seat. If the vehicle has no back seat, a child under age 1 can ride in a front seat if the air bag is deactivated or if the vehicle does not have an air bag deactivation switch. IMPORTANT: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends NEVER putting a rear-facing child safety seat in front of an air bag.
- A child age 1 through 4 must ride in a child safety seat.
- A child under 40 pounds must ride in a child safety seat.
- A child age 5 or 6 must ride in a child safety seat or booster seat.
- A child under 60 pounds must ride in a child safety seat or booster seat, regardless of age.
- A child age 7 through 12 must be properly restrained in a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt (see below for seat belt proper fit). A child age 13 through 17 must ride in a seat belt.
Why should I properly restrain my child?
Crashes are violent events. When a car, truck, or van suddenly stops in a crash, everyone and everything inside keeps moving. Child safety seats and seat belts help manage that energy so our bodies don't need to.
Traffic crashes are still the leading cause of unintentional deaths and severe injuries in the U.S., and unintentional injuries are the leading cause of childhood deaths. Many of these deaths and injuries are predictable, and preventable. For every injury-related death, there are 45 children hospitalized, and many more needing medical care in emergency rooms or doctors' offices. Child safety seats are 71% effective in reducing deaths for infants in passenger cars. They are 54% effective in reducing deaths for children ages 1 to 4 in passenger cars. They reduce the need for hospitalization by 69%. Overall, child safety seats are a highly cost effective investment!
Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration National Standardized Child Passenger Safety Training Program Curriculum
What are Ease-of-Use Ratings?
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed a set of ratings for child safety seats based on their ease-of-use. Each seat is given an Ease-of-Use Rating at the A, B, or C level. Letter grades are also given in five categories:
- Pre-assembled vs. assembly required
- Clarity of labeling on child safety seat
- Clarity of written instruction manual
- Ease of securing child in safety seat
- Ease of installing child safety seat in vehicle
For all ratings, visit this website.
How can I know if my child's safety seat has been recalled?
If you mailed in the registration card with your current address when you purchased your child's safety seat, the seat manufacturer will notify you by mail of any recalls associated with your particular seat. If you did not register your seat, or have relocated, you can visit the web site for the manufacturer of your specific seat. Look for a "Product Registration" or "Recall" page within that web site. You will need to have the model number and date of manufacture from the seat itself. This information is located on the hard plastic portion of the seat, usually on a sticker on the back or bottom of the seat. Also see our list of Manufacturers' websites.
There are also several comprehensive recall lists compiled by reputable agencies. Again, you will need the model number and date of manufacture from your child's safety seat before you use these lists.
How do I know if my child needs to be riding in a booster seat?
The law in New Mexico states that all children 5 and 6 years old who have outgrown their car seats have to ride in a booster seat, regardless of how much they weigh. Also, children ages 7 through 12 must ride in a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits them properly.
How do you know if the adult seat belt fits your child properly?
If your child is NOT riding in a booster seat, try this 5-step test:
- Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
- Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
- Is the lap belt below the tummy, touching the thighs?
- Is the shoulder belt centered on the shoulder and chest?
- Can the child stay seated like this for the entire trip?
If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your child needs a booster seat to ride more safely in the car. Riding in a booster seat is more comfortable, too!