Perhaps or perhaps not. I have talked about car seats and injury prevention so much even I’m ready for a new topic of study and conversation. Yet at the end of the day, I am still passionate about saving the lives of children and protecting them from injury. I know I said “Beyond… Carseats” but I feel I have to post at least one blog on car seats because I see so much car seat misuse all around and children not adequately secured in vehicles that it grieves my heart no matter how much I have said it before. I have seen the repercussions and consequences of a child not adequately secured in a crash and it is tragic and heart-breaking. I am not sure why some caretakers are not attentive and accountable to follow current expert guidelines that could save the life of the child they are entrusted with. Why is protecting the life of a precious child not motivation enough to do what is right? Why do some believe tragedy could never happen to them? Why do some believe they know better than expert advice on what is safest? I am not sure why I see people in such a rush to move their child to the next stage when children already grow up fast enough. Or why do people seek advice from persons whom are not experts in this area at all? Sometimes even healthcare providers are not updated on child passenger safety recommendations and parents are given misleading and conflicting information (thankfully, this is improving). So I will briefly describe the current recommendations and I will provide references and resources that are from reputable and reliable expert sources. I post this because I care and if even one child is better protected from injury, then it is worth the time I took to type this. The information is out there already, but I hope this reaches at least one whom will really take the time to think about the potential consequences of not adequately securing their child. Here are two expert references: http://www.safercar.gov/parents/CarSeats/Right-Car-Seat-Age-Size.htm?view=full; and https://www.safekids.org/ultimate-car-seat-guide/).
10 Safety Reminders to Help Keep Your Kids Riding Safe in Your Car
Remember Motor Vehicle Crashes are the #1 Cause of Death to children! Let that sink in. Now put away all distractions and fasten your little loves correctly before driving anywhere.
- Car Seats are for traveling in the vehicle. That sounds like a no-brainer, but infant car seats are commonly used throughout the day for infants even when the infant is not traveling in the vehicle and this can be dangerous. Car Seats are not for the infant to sleep in outside of the vehicle. In the vehicle, rear facing seats should be at the recommended angle. Promptly remove the infant from the car seat when not traveling in the vehicle. Outside of the vehicle, the seat is not at the recommended angle and an infant’s head can lurch forward and impair the baby’s breathing. Also, make sure all the straps are buckled when the infant is in the car seat. Infants can sink down in the car seat and if the crotch strap is not buckled, the baby’s breathing can be impaired if they sink down and get their head caught on the chest clip. This has happened. Infants have died as a result of being left in the car seat and their head/neck getting into a position in which the infant was unable to breathe.
- Keep your child’s car seat rear-facing as long as possible at least until age 2. Studies have shown in a crash, the head and neck are better protected when a child is riding in a rear-facing car seat than if it were forward facing. This is a video clip that demonstrates this in a simulated crash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuZFVPv3Rpk . Babies and toddlers’ feet may touch the back of the vehicle seat and this is okay. Developmentally, babies/toddlers tend to sit with their legs bent/crossed anyway. After your child outgrows their infant car seat, get a convertible car seat and keep your child rear-facing until your child reaches the upper rear -facing weight or height level for their car seat. Then, you can turn it around and use it forward facing.
- Keep the CHEST CLIP clipped at the chest/armpit level, not the belly! This will not only be huge in helping to protect your child during a crash, but also will help those busy toddlers from escaping their car seats.
- Tighten up! Keep those harness straps tight enough so that you cannot pinch the straps . Are you concerned about the straps causing marks are the neck? It is not recommended to purchase anything that did not come with the car seat as the seat was not tested under these conditions. However, you can pull over your child’s shirt so the strap is not directly against the neck. A loose harness will allow too much movement of the child and they could be possibly being thrown from the seat during a crash. Did not put heavy snowsuits on your child prior to placing them in the car seat. Layer your child, place them in the seat, tighten up the straps, and then you can put a blanket/coat over them and tuck it in around them. My kids wore their coats backwards when riding in their car seats. For infants, you can also get one of the covers that goes over the car seat to keep your baby warm. However, It is not advised that anything go between the baby and the car seat as this can affect the tightness of the straps and the infant to not be adequately restrained.
- Secure your child’s car seat with either the vehicle seatbelt or lower anchors. Either one is equally as safe. Get a tight fit so that the car seat does not move more that an 1 inch either way at the belt path. Most cars now have the switchable locking belt, meaning that you have to pull the belt completely out and then slowly feed the belt back and it locks. If you have this type of seatbelt, you won’t have to use a locking clip (which comes with all car seats) because your seatbelt locks the car seat in place. If this does not make sense (and I too have to learn by doing), go find a certified passenger safety technician to help you learn how to install your child’s car seat. Also, most car seat manufacturers have installation videos available online on how to install their car seats. This can be very helpful. I highly encourage you to learn how to install your child’s car seat from a certified passenger safety specialist. It is worth it. You can start by checking out this link or calling your local fire department or health department to ask if they have certified passenger safety technicians and offer free car seat checks (http://www.safekids.org/events).
- Children should ride in a 5 point harnessed car seat as long as possible until they outgrow their car seat’s limits. It is not a right of passage to move your child to a belt positioning booster at 4 years age; please don’t. This can be very dangerous as most 4 year olds are still small, very active and do not sit still. Children who are too small can slide under the seat belt in a crash and may not be restrained by the shoulder belt especially if they are too small, too wiggly and cannot stay correctly positioned. In my experience, most 4 year olds and young children are too small and are not able to sit correctly in a booster until they are at least older than age 5. After children reach 4 years and 40 lbs, it is safest to keep your child in a harnessed car seat as long as possible (check your car seat weight and height limits for the harness). Most 4 year-olds are too small and not developmentally ready to sit still in a booster seat and easily can move out of position of being adequately restrained. I know I am repeating myself, but too often I seen kids advancing too soon and it warrants repeating. It is safest to keep these little loves in a harnessed car seat longer and not consider moving the child to a booster until they outgrow the limits of their car seat. Many manufacturers are now making higher weight and bigger harnessed car seats so it can be used by the child longer. After a child has outgrown the forward facing car seat limits, they should then move to a booster seat.
- At the bare minimum, a child should be in a booster seat (high-back even better) until they reach at least 4 foot 9 inches or until they can sit properly in the vehicle’s seat with their back against the seat, knees bent/feet on floor and the seatbelt fits proper across the hips (not abdomen as it can cause internal injuries in a crash) and the mid-chest and shoulder (not the neck). Most children are beyond 8 years old and at least in the 4th and 5th grade when they are tall enough to safely sit without a booster in a car. This means most, if not all, of elementary school a child should be riding in a booster seat and for some children even longer. 4 foot 9 inches is 57 inches. Even at that height, it is best to make sure the vehicle seat belt is fitting correctly as in some cars it will fit differently and the seatbelt still may not fit the child correctly. With the child sitting with his/her back against the back of the vehicle seat and their feet firmly on the vehicle floor, the vehicle seat belt should fit the child across the upper thighs/lower hips (NOT THE ABDOMEN) and across the shoulder (NOT THE NECK). If the seat belt does not fit like this, put the child back in a booster seat. If the child is in a booster seat and the vehicle seat belt is not fitting like this, put the child back in a 5 point harnessed car seat. The booster seat puts the child up enough so the seat belt sits across the strong bones in the body: the hips and the shoulders. If the seat belt is sitting across soft parts of the body such as the abdomen, the seat belt can cause fatal damage to the internal organs and blood vessels. Seat belts were designed for adults to sit across the strong bones to protect in a crash; this is why children need boosters to boost them up so the seat belt can fit correctly. And for goodness sake, do not allow any one in your vehicle to ride with the shoulder belt behind their back. This is unsafe and leaves the passenger unrestrained to fly forward and/or out of their seat. Also, there are booster seats designed for the older child and some are even made to match the interior of the vehicle. These booster seats are relatively inexpensive and offer a great alternative for the child who might be sensitive about still riding in a booster, yet still needs one to ride safe. These thinner booster seats are not for the smaller, younger child, but rather usually for the child 8-12 years old.
- The safest place for children under the age of 13 to ride in a vehicle is in the back seat . This is based on research and the current recommendation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We are all safest riding in the back seat.
- Watch out! Limit Distractions. No texting. No phone. Watch the road. Let us all continue to remind each other of this because anyone can fall into bad habits and it is not okay. It is dangerous. Remember to put something you need for your day in the back seat with your baby just as an extra step to safe guard your baby from being left behind. With detours and a racing mind of to-do lists, babies have been forgotten in vehicles accidentally and died from being left in a hot car. Tell your child care provider to always call if your child is expected and does not arrive. Also, know that during a crash, everything in your car becomes a projectile. Keep this in mind as hard toys and items can cause injury.
- Now go hug your babies. Love them. Do everything you can to protect them. They are worth it. They are worth the extra precautions we take. They are the priority. Stay strong in your convictions to do the right thing to keep your children safe every time. None of us parents are perfect. We are all learning and growing each day. Ask for help. Let us each encourage one another to press on to do the best we can to take care of the littles we have been entrusted with. Blessings and Stay Safe!
One last thing, your car seat has an expiration date, usually 6 years from the date it was manufactured. If you have a used car seat make sure that it has never been in a crash, not recalled, that you have all the parts and the manual before you use it for your child.
Okay, now you know. I can move beyond this now. In all honesty, I didn’t always buckle my kids up correctly because I did not know anything about car seats when I first became a parent, but I was motivated to learn more and more with each child to keep them safe. Car seats can be complicated, but I was determined to do it right for my own kids so I went and became a certified car seat chic. With my own kids, my youngest stayed rear facing until over 3 years old, all of them were in a harnessed car seat until they were at least 7 years old, and sat in a booster seat until at least age 10. Most of their friends have moved out of each stage much faster. This can be hard at times, but I continue to discuss with my kids each step of the way so they understand why we do what we do. They have learned to understand that as their mommy, I can not know what I know and not do what I do to keep them safe to the best of my ability.
I like these sites sites below because they provide reputable and reliable expert information:
**Note the picture above is of my daughter when she was 2 years old when she insisted on wearing her helmet while riding rear-facing in her car seat. This picture was used because it is a sweet memory and I as her Mama captured a moment where my child wanted to be safe. Please note it is not recommended that children ride in car seats with helmets to date. While I will not compromise on decreased safety with my children, I will entertain their ideas and encourage them when they want to partake in keeping themselves and others safer.