Last week we learned that parents and caregivers are finding the installation and proper use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts challenging. While car seats reduce the risk of infant death and injury by 71% (toddlers by 54%), a study published last month in the Journal of Pediatrics found that “95% of families made at least one error in car seat use, and 91% made a serious error.”
Right Seat. This is an easy one. Check the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height. Like milk, your car seat has an expiration date. Just double check the label on your car seat to make sure it is still safe.
Right Place. Kids are VIPs, just ask them. We know all VIPs ride in the back seat, so keep all children in the back seat until they are 13.
Right Direction. You want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, usually until around age 2. When he or she outgrows the seat, move your child to a forward-facing car seat. Make sure to attach the top tether a er you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors.
Inch Test. Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the base. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
Pinch Test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check car seat manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.
Many of our parents and patients know Samantha Neff, one of the medical assistants at the Arcadia Division of Pediatric Alliance. What you may not know is that Sam is also a certified child passenger safety (CPS) technician! Sam reached out after last week’s post on “Car Seat Rules” to inform our readers of one other risk young children may face:
I agree with everything in this article and love to see child passenger safety awareness. However, I would like to add just one more thing that I feel often gets overlooked: Adding extra products in and around the car seat that have not been crash tested, or tested to see how they might affect the safety of your child. Extra products include anything that did not come with the car seat. For example: head and/or body supports, shoulder pads, heavy coats or baby bundles that go in between the baby and the seat. Mirrors, hard toys and window shades can fly off in the event of a crash and become projectiles, causing very serious injuries. Even something as simple as putting on a new cover could lead to serious injuries because oftentimes they have no fire retardant and could catch fire very quickly.
Unfortunately, all of the above are marketed to look like they are cute, safe and effective to use, but they are not regulated or crash tested and could be the difference between life and death.
The most important thing you could do when using a car seat is read the manual to both the car seat and the vehicle. There are Child Passenger Safety checks frequently around the Pittsburgh area that are free and open to the public. You could visit these websites to find a tech or seat check near you.