Here’s a terrific resolution for the new year of 2011: Rethink your child’s car seat safety.
In the USA, the leading cause of death for children ages 2-12 are motor vehicle accidents, said John Behana, a spokesman for the Maryland Fire District. Proper use of car seats and booster seats have the ability to protect your child in case of a crash.
Children are master copycats, and they learn best from modeling their parents behavior. Therefore, Behana says, parents should always buckle up, even if they are simply driving around the corner.
Many parents are aware that children must ride in the rear-facing position until the age of 12 months, however not everyone realizes that riding backwards is safest for children up to the age of four. Keep your child traveling rear-facing for as long as possible, as studies have shown that kids riding backwards are five times safer during a crash than children who are riding forwards.
The bones and muscles of children’s bodies are still growing and are less adept at absorbing shock than adult bones and muscles. A stretch of a child’s spinal cord of just one-quarter of an inch during an accident can leave irreparable damage to the body.
All car seats on the market today are certified as safe and have passed rigorous government safety standards. The issue that firemen most commonly encounter is that caregivers do not always use the seat safely.
“Every fire house will check your car seat for proper installation,” says Behana. “There is no excuse for having a car seat that is improperly fitted into your vehicle. Almost all car seats can be properly secured in virtually all vehicles, but occasionally we have come across situations where certain seats were not a good fit for specific cars.”
Harness strap tension is another issue where parents must be vigilant. “If you can pinch the harness between your fingers, then it’s too lose,” Behana states emphatically. The harness must be snug around your child’s torso without any slack to maximize protection in the event of an accident.
The history of your car seat is another important factor in its safety. Most seats have an expiration of six or seven years from the date of their manufacturing. Additionally, a seat that has been in a motor vehicle crash ought not be used, as its internal mechanisms may have been weakened due to the impact.
Finally, ease of adjustability of the car seat’s straps is not only a convenience feature, but a safety factor. If the harness is too difficult to access or adjust, then caregivers will not make it a priority to ensure a proper fit during each trip in the car. Many seats require a complete re-threading of the harness in order to accommodate a child’s growth. Behanda recommends the Britax Marathon convertible as well as the Britax Boulevard convertible car seat. “These seats are simple to install and can be adjusted without removing them from the car. If you have to keep uninstalling and reinstalling the seat, at some point someone won’t secure it properly, so it pays to get the seat that is easiest to secure and need not be removed to adjust the harness height. For the past decade I have seen that Britax car seats are generally the safest.”
Reminder: Never place a car seat in a front passenger seat that is equipped with an airbag.
Travel safely with your precious cargo in 2011.