By TE Cunningham
Trips to the pediatrician, grocery store and pharmacy become far less routine when your brand-new baby is on board. The first thing to think about when driving with a baby or children in the car is safety.
So where does one start? The proper installation of car seats would be at the top of the priority list. Recent statistics from Safe Ride 4 Kids, shows that as many as 75% of children are restrained incorrectly, which can accelerate the odds of injury for your child if you are in an accident. When choosing your car or booster seats, make sure you research and purchase a top-quality rated product. Then read the instruction manual carefully; do not assume because it appears simple to install that you have it installed correctly. Your child’s life may be riding on it.
Buying or using previously owned car seats
Also, if you purchase a used car seat and don’t have the manual, make sure you look up the information online. One largely unknown fact, car seats come with expiration dates. Never buy a used car seat if you don’t know who you are obtaining it from and certainly never use one that was involved in an automobile accident.
Never add your own fabric touches or décor appliques to your child’s seat; it was designed within rigid fire safety guidelines. Think about this as well when buying toys and items that clip on your child’s seat. While you may want your son or daughter entertained and quiet during the drive, it’s not worth risking his or her safety.
Not sure you got it right? Typically your local police department or fire department will have a certified child passenger safety technician on board; let them take a look at it. It’s worth the time it takes for your peace of mind. If your local stations do not have a technician, visit www.saferide4kids.com to find one near you.
Sarah Fager, RN, of Newman Regional Health Women’s Life Center, is a Safe Kids KS member and Child Passenger Safety technician who can inspect and install car seats for children. (Read more about Sarah)
It may seem obvious, but always install your car seat in the backseat of the car.
The transition from rear-facing car seat to front-facing car seat should occur when any of the following criteria are met:
• Your child exceeds the weight limit for his or her current rear-facing seat
• Your child’s ears are above the uppermost point of the rear-facing car seat
• Your child’s shoulders set above the top of the harness points on the rear-facing car seat
Next up, is a front-facing car seat (installed in the backseat of your vehicle). Many current models on the market will accommodate a child up to 50 pounds or more.
As you move from rear-facing to front-facing car seat to booster seat, it’s important to know that you are dropping down a level of safety each time. As such, you want to retain each version of the car seat as long as possible.
Typically, a child is ready for a belt-positioning booster seat in the pre-teen years, some as early as seven or eight years of age, or as he or she reaches a height of 4 feet and 9 inches.
Once your child has outgrown the booster seat, it is imperative to have your son or daughter continue to ride in the back seat until at least the teenage years, and always using the full-seat belt option of lap and shoulder harnesses. Airbags in the front seat are designed for adults and can seriously injure a child.
That said, place the child on either the left or right side of the rear seat versus in the middle rear seat, as statistics published last year by the Walloon Agency for Road Safety lists that as the highest mortality seat. The study also noted that the number is skewed by individuals not wearing a seatbelt.
A few additional best practices include reviewing car safety rules with the kids.
It’s important that they understand that staying calm and quiet in the car is important to not distract the driver and potentially cause an accident. Install a baby rearview mirror and never turn around while driving. If there is a commotion in the backseat, find a safe place to pull over and then handle the issue. And never let your children share a seat belt!
For these other child-related services including children’s pediatric care, well-child checkups, immunizations and vaccines, school and sports physicals, health screening tests and more, contact us at Newman Regional Health Medical Partners Pediatrics.