According to Cohen Law Group which stands among the top law firms in the country “Child safety seats provide the optimal protection against the leading cause of preventable injury and death to children – car crashes”. However, correctly installing and using car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can be challenging. In fact, more than 90% of car seats are not used correctly, with more than half having multiple points of critical misuse – which can prove deadly in a crash.
Read on for tips to find out if you are using the right seat correctly.
Select the Safest Seat
Price does not correlate with safety. The safest seat is the one you can use correctly every time – that fits your child, your car, your needs and your budget. Remember, the most expensive car seat used incorrectly is much more dangerous than an inexpensive car seat used properly.
Become Best Friends – with the Manual
Trust vehicle and car seat manufacturers to tell you the correct way to use their safety systems; they contain the best information when it comes to your child’s safety in the car.
Get a Professional Opinion
A nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) can check the installation of your child safety seat, show you what to do, and answer your questions. To find a technician, visit www.safercar.gov/parents
Rear Face as Long as Possible
As per the best Chiropractic in Atlanta “Rear facing is the safest way for children to travel as rear-facing is 5 times safer because in a crash, a rear-facing car seat cradles and moves with the child to reduce the crash forces to a child’s fragile head, neck, and spinal cord”.
Facing Front – Use the Tether
Always use the Top Tether of the LATCH system with any forward-facing car seat, to substantially reduce the movement of a child’s head in the event of a crash.
Take Up the Slack
Always keep the child’s harness straps snug, straight, flat, and at or below the child’s shoulders for rear-facing seats, and at or above the child’s shoulders for forward-facing seats.
Don’t Let the Clip Slip
The harness chest clip keeps the straps positioned correctly and should be positioned over the child’s sternum, level with the armpits.
Position the Seat at the Correct Angle
Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the correct angle for your child’s seat to avoid having the child’s head tilt forward and obstruct breathing.
Take the Right Path
Make sure the LATCH strap or vehicle belt is routed through the correct path to secure the child restraint. Install the car seat tightly with no more than 1 inch of movement at the belt path.
Leave the Bulk Off
Remove bulky clothing or blankets before harnessing the child in the seat. A coat adds space between the child and the harness system, resulting in more slack. Cover your child after the harness is already adjusted.
Wait to Graduate
Stepping up to the next stage in car seats too quickly is a step down in safety.
- Rear face as long as possible – a minimum of age 2.
- Forward face with a 5-point harness from age 2-7 and until the child is ready to use a booster correctly.
- Once the forward facing 5-point harness is outgrown, use a booster for children until age 8-12. Boosters position the seat belt properly on child’s body, because a poorly positioned seat belt is a major source of injury to spinal cord & abdominal organs.
- A vehicle lap-shoulder seat belt alone can be used only when the belt fits the child correctly, not before age 8.
A child is ready to ride without the booster once they can pass this 5 step test:
- Child sits comfortably all the way back in the vehicle seat with their knees bent at the edge of the vehicle seat.
- Shoulder belt fits evenly across the torso, not cutting into the neck or face.
- Lap belt is low on the hips, touching the tops of the thighs (not on the abdomen).
- Feet are on the floor.
- Child can remain seated comfortably this way for the entire ride. Find further advice and consultation at birthinjuryadvocate.com/defect-lawsuit/kernicterus-jaundice/.
Airbags are designed to inflate with tremendous force and can cause serious injury or death to children. Children under 13 years of age should be seated in the back seat of the vehicle. NEVER place a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag.
In the event of a collision, when the vehicle comes to a stop, all unrestrained objects continue to move at the same speed the vehicle was moving. Even a small object, such as a sippy cup, moving at 30mph can really injure someone. Consider soft toys instead of heavy ones and putting things in the trunk when possible.
When parents put safety first, children notice. Starting with proper car seat use and explaining why it’s important, showing them how to buckle up as they grow, and leading by example by buckling up too, kids will be more likely to take appropriate safety precautions when it is their turn to sit behind the wheel. A safety conscious teenager is more likely to buckle up in the car with friends, insist that their friends buckle too, and is less likely to drive unsafely. They will also be more likely to continue the tradition of safety with their children, your grandkids.
By Alina Lagoviyer, CPST-I at How-To-SAFETY, a Staten Island based safety education and car seat installation service. Go to www.HowToSafety.com to learn more.