Today’s Guest Columnist is Dr. John Giuffreda, a family practice resident at the University Health Center here in Lafayette.
It happens too often: mom takes baby out of the car seat because she is fussy, dad takes his eyes off the road to look at what is going on with baby, and SMACK! At the time of a car crash impact, physics dictates that baby suddenly weighs a ton and flies out of mom’s arms, no matter how tight she holds. Where baby hits inside the car, we hate to think.
Being in a car crash is a traumatic event for anyone, including children. Using a child car seat is the best protection you can give your kid. Every state requires that an infant or small child be in a seat. And with good reason- accidental injury is the leading cause of death in children, and most such injuries are automobile crashes.
Child safety seats are fantastic inventions. They substantially reduce the risk of a fatal injury. Yet many safety seats are used incorrectly. When choosing any car seat, following some guidelines will help ensure a child’s safety. The best car seat is not always the most expensive one- it’s the one that best fits a child’s weight, size, and age, as well as your car.
Once you select a seat be sure to try it out, keeping in mind that store displays and illustrations might not show the correct usage. It’s up to you to learn how to install a car seat properly and harness your child for the ride. Here are some guidelines:
-Choose a seat with a label saying it meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.
-Read the instructions!
-Accept a used seat with caution. Never use a seat more than 6 years old or that was in a crash. Avoid seats that are missing parts, are cracked, or don’t have an instruction manual. If you have any doubt about a seat’s history, don’t use it!
-If you get a used seat, call the manufacturer for recommendations on how much useful life the seat has left, and information on recalls. Recalls are common and the manufacturer may be able to send you replacement parts or a new model.
-For new or used seats, fill out the product registration card so you will be notified about recalls.
When my daughter was half way through grade school, she decided that her booster seat was for babies. She had long legs and the booster only went half way down her thighs, making the seat uncomfortable for long rides too. She was also pretty skinny and for a long time did not meet the weight requirement to sit in an adult seat belt. It was whine whine whine all the way.
These days car seats and booster seats are much more comfortable, but there are different seats and seat positions for different ages.
Birth to 12 months: Kids under 12 months should always ride in a seat that faces the rear of the car. There are different types of rear-facing seats. There are infant-only seats, or convertible 3-in-1 seats. The convertible seats have higher height and weight limits, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing as he grows.
1 to 3 years: Keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible. Its the best position for high-impact crashes. Kids should remain rear-facing until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer. Once the child outgrows the rear-facing seat, he is ready to travel in a forward-facing seat with a harness.
4-7 years: Again, keep your child in the car seat with harness until reaching the top weight and height limits for that seat. Then it is time to travel in a booster seat.
8-12 years: Keep your child in a booster until he or she is big enough to fit in a regular seat belt. For boosters and seat belts, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not across the belly. Shoulder belts should lie on the shoulder and chest, not across the neck. Remember: your child should ALWAYS ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.
So use those car seats properly, in the back seat. Sometimes you’ll just have to take it as they whine on down the road.