Keeping Kids Safe in the Car

Posted by  | Thursday, October 29, 2009  at 8:00 AM  
Carseats are a big soapbox, passion, obsession - whatever you want to call it - of mine. Lately, I've seen a lot of carseats being used improperly. A while ago, I posted this on Prayer of Hannah about carseats. I wanted to do another post that highlighted common mistakes parents make. This list comes from an article I first read in Parents magazine, April 2009. I thought it was VERY well written and I was able to find a copy online here.

I've added the RED to show what I think to be THE MOST common mistakes that I see amongst my friends. I also added some italics. Please, check and recheck how you're using your carseat. Even experienced parents need to be reminded of these things. Jacob and I still get our carseat manual out almost everytime we have to move a carseat.

And for those wondering - yes, Adeline is still rear facing at almost 20 months. Will was rear facing until about 20 months as well. Most commonly, I get suggestions from folks worried that they will break their legs in a crash. I simply reply with - I would rather have broken legs than broken necks. There is no evidence to show an increased likelihood of breaking limbs during a collision. There IS evidence showing that children under 2 are more likely to suffer spinal cord injuries when forward facing versus rear facing. Here is a great summary of the evidence on rear-facing.

Feel free to ask me any questions about car seats. I have spent an enormous (bordering on too much!) amount of time reading about and researching car seats. And PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not think I am judging you or your recent blog post including a picture of your new car seat. :) I simply want to help spread information to parents in order to keep our babies as safe as possible!

TOP CAR SEAT MISTAKES

Harnessing your INFANT:

1. Placing your baby in the front seat.
The force generated by a deployed front airbag can severely injure or kill a child. Buckle her into the safest spot in your car: the center of the rear seat. A recent study conducted at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that kids seated there were 43 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than those who rode in the side seats. However, any position in the rear is safer than in the front.

2. Using the wrong anchors.
The LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system allows you to attach the seat to metal rings in some cars' rear seats without using the seat belt. But not all cars have anchors in the middle. To install your car seat in the center, make sure you're not using the anchors for a window seat by mistake. If yours doesn't have center anchors, use the seat belt instead.

3. Not getting a tight-enough fit.
The seat shouldn't be able to move more than an inch from side to side. When tightening the LATCH straps or seat belt, put your knee in the car seat and push down to help you pull them as tight as possible. You should adjust the harness straps so that you can't pinch a fold in the fabric. "If your child can move forward at all, there is a risk that he could whip forward during a crash and injure his head or spinal cord," says Dr. Durbin.

4. Positioning the harness straps too high.
When your baby is rear-facing, adjust the straps so they're threaded through the slots at or below his shoulder level, says Jennifer Stockburger, vehicle and child-safety program manager at Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center, in East Haddam, Connecticut. Otherwise, she could be injured or ejected in a crash. (Although not included in this list; the opposite is also often overlooked. Positioning the harness straps too low when foward facing. Forward facing children should have the shoulder straps AT or ABOVE shoulder level. If they are below, the child will not be secure in a collision. If the child's shoulders are above the last strap slot - then they have outgrown the carseat.)

5. Adding padding.
You can't tighten straps snugly if you cover them with cushy pads, wrap your baby in a blanket or a thick coat, or use seat pads that aren't designed for the seat.


Harnessing your TODDLER:

1. Turning the seat too early.
If you have a convertible seat, your child should ride rear facing until he's reached the maximum rear-facing limit of the seat (generally 30 to 35 pounds). (The AAP recently stated a new minimum of two years should be used for rear facing. The previous recommendation was 1 year or 20 pounds.)

2. Not cinching the harness tightly.
The fit should be so snug that you can't slip a finger between your child's shoulder and the strap (or pinch the fabric of the straps).

3. Using the LATCH system and a seat belt.
You're not getting double the protection. "The two have never been tested together, and it's possible that using both could injure your child in an accident," says Walker.

4. Skipping the tether.
Fifty-five percent of parents make this dangerous mistake, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The tether secures the top of the car seat so it's installed tightly enough.

5. Securing the chest clip in the wrong spot.
It should cross your child's chest at his armpit level. If it's too low, the straps might slip off; when it's too high, the clip could injure his neck.


BOOSTERS:

1. Giving up the booster too soon.
NHTSA surveys show that only 37 percent of children ages 4 to 7 were riding in a booster seat in 2007. Most states have booster-seat laws (which parents often ignore), but many only cover kids up to age 7. (Likewise, I would add "Giving up the 5-point harness too soon." 5-point harnesses are much safer than booster seats and there is no reason to rush into a booster seat other than convenience.)

2. Using the lap belt only.
If you skip the shoulder belt, your child's upper body could jerk forward so violently in a crash that her head may strike her knees or she may suffer severe internal injuries.

3 comments:

Jaclyn said...

thanks for posting these good reminders!
I have a question. Soon i will need to buy a new car seat for my son (he is 7 months now). I know the most popular (and most expensive!) brand is Britax. I am interested in purchasing something more affordable, but not at the expense of my son's safety. Do you know if any other brand compares to the safety of a britax?
Thanks!
JaclynRunderwood@gmail.com

Christina said...

Here are my thoughts on the safety of Britax vs. other seats. All seats can be safe IF THEY ARE USED PROPERLY. Yes, certain ones do better in testing and such, but they all have to meet a certain safety standard in order to even be on the market.

My opinion is that Britax are safest because they are, hands down, the easiest to use. This means it is easier to use a Britax properly - keeping them safer. The straps rarely twist, they are SUPER easy to install, adjust strap heights and very easy to tighten appropriately. I cannot say the same three things about the other seats we have used (and some that we still use..mainly Graco and Evenflo). I do not recommend the Britax infant seats though - not great ratings on those.

As far as other reasonably priced convertible car seat options for your 7 month old....The Cosco Scenera has received good ratings as a MUCH cheaper option. I cannot personally speak on its ease of use, but it does rear face to a high weight and it has a tall height allowance (which is what many carseats lack). It's priced around $60 - sometimes much cheaper online.

If price were of no concern, my recommendation would always be the Britax Marathon. A quick online search shows the best price I can see is about $180 right now. I'm sure you could do better with some coupon codes at an online store.

So, like I said, all carseats are safe when used properly. Here is a chart by the NHTSA rating the "Ease of Use" of all carseats. Very helpful in looking for a new one.

http://tinyurl.com/yfslf53

Mallory and Amy said...

How do you keep a toddler from pushing the chest piece down? My 2-year-old refused to keep it at armpit level and pushes it towards his belly. Any tips?

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