We all want to come in first when that means we are the best, the top, #1 at something, right? But when coming in first means that we have the highest percentage of something that is devastating, not so much. Unfortunately, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Mississippi ranks #1 in the percentage of child fatalities in motor vehicle crashes due to improper restraints and the first per capita for heatstroke deaths in cars. Many of these deaths can be prevented. Well-Being turned to Safe Kids Worldwide and Safe Kids of Mississippi for some important tips about keeping our kids safe in cars.
Road injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths and injuries in children in the U.S.
Car Seat Safety Tips
Direction Matters: Rear or Forward Facing?
For the best protection, keep your baby in a rear-facing car seat until 2 years old or older. Find the exact height and weight limit on the side or back of your child’s car seat. Note: Kids who ride in rear-facing seats have the best protection for the head, neck and spine. Rear-facing car seats should always be placed in the back seat away from the airbag.
When your child outgrows a rear-facing seat after age 2, move them to a forward-facing car seat. Keep the seat in the back and make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors (LATCH). Use the top tether at all times. Top tethers greatly reduce the car seat’s forward motion in a crash.
Kids can remain in some forward-facing car seats until they are 65 pounds or more depending on the car seat’s limits. Check labels to find the exact measurements for your seat. Discontinue use of the lower attachment when your child reaches the limits set by your car seat and car manufacturers. Continue to use the top tether. Refer to the user manuals (for your car and for the car seat) to know about those limits. Once your child meets the lower anchor weight limits, you will switch to a seat belt.
Check Car Seat Labels
Look at the label on your child’s car seat to make sure it is appropriate for the age, weight and height of your child.
Your child’s car seat has an expiration date. Find and double check the label to make sure it is still safe.
Register Your Child’s Car Seat
Register all car seats to ensure that you will be promptly notified about future recalls. You can register online with the car seat manufacturer, using the information found on the label on the car seat at www.safercar.gov. You can also register by filling out the registration card that came with the car seat when purchased.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that 59 percent of car seats are not installed correctly.
Install the Car Seat Correctly
The Inch Test. Once the car seat is installed, give it a good tug at the base where the seat belt goes through it. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not more than an inch.
The Pinch Test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check your car seat manual). 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 are good to go.
For both rear – and forward-facing car seats, use either the car’s seat belt or the lower anchors and for forward-facing seats, also use the top tether to lock the seat in place. Don’t use both the lower anchors and seat belt at the same time. They are equally safe, so pick the one that gives you the best fit.
If you are having even the slightest trouble, questions or concerns about the installation and use of your child’s car seat, Safe Kids can connect you to a child passenger safety (CPS) technician in your community who can check to make sure your car seats are installed correctly and teach you how to use and install a car seat on your own. Visit http://cert.safekids.org/get-car-seat-checked.
Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.
Is it time for a Booster Seat?
It’s time to change to a booster seat when: 1) Your child exceeds the forward-facing car seat’s height and weight limits. 2) Your child’s shoulders are above the forward-facing car seat’s top harness slots. 3) The tops of your child’s ears are above the top of the car seat.
If the forward-facing car seat with a harness still fits and your child is within the weight and height limits, continue to use it until it is outgrown. It provides more protection than a booster seat or seat belts for a small child.
Be Wary of Toys
Toys can injure your child in a crash, so be extra careful to choose ones that are soft and will not hurt your child if tossed about the car in an accident. Secure loose objects to protect everyone in the car.
Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. While it may be tempting to dash out for a quick errand while your babies are sleeping in their car seats, the temperature inside your can rise 20 degrees and cause heatstroke in the time it takes for you to run in and out of a store.
With more than 2,600 children under 13 involved in a car crash every day, or one child every 33 seconds, we as parents need to be extra vigilant about keeping kids safe in cars.