Keeping your children safe is not only a parents, but also a pediatricians, number one priority. One of the most important areas to review safety and ensure you are doing everything you can to protect your child is in the car.
Why is this so important?
According to the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, combining all unintentional injury deaths among those between 0 and 19 years, motor vehicle traffic–related deaths were the leading cause. Each year thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes. In 2015, 31 children age 15 and under were killed in motor vehicles on Kentucky roadways. 55% of those were unrestrained.
- Research shows that REAR-facing child safety seats are over 70% more effective in reducing fatal injury. That means it is over 5 TIMES SAFER to be REAR-facing! Check your manufacture guidelines to see how long your car seat can be rear facing. Not only are rear facing car seats improving safety, but appropriate front facing car seats and booster seats lower risk of injury by up to 60% in comparison to a seat belt.
How do I choose a seat?
- You will find many different car seats to choose from and you can spend countless hours reading about each of them. No one seat is considered “the best" or "safest." The best seat is the one that fits YOUR child's size, is correctly installed, fits well in your vehicle, and is used properly every time you drive. Educate yourself on what type of seat you are looking for and the manufacturer guidelines of height and weight. The following are different types of car seats you will see as your child grows and general guidelines of when to use each of them.
The following is quick, helpful information for common questions regarding car seat safety:
1. MIDDLE of the BACK seat is the safest place to ride for all children younger than 13 years. Sometimes it is difficult to install a car safety seat tightly in the middle. If the vehicle seat is narrow or if the vehicle does not have lower anchors for that seat, it is safest to put the car safety seat in a position where you can install it tightly with either the lower anchor system or seat belt; in some cases, this may be on either side of the back seat rather than the middle.
2. Place the harnesses in your rear-facing seat in slots that are at or below your child's shoulders. Ensure that the harness is snug! You should not be able to pinch any slack between your fingertips. Ensure the chest clip is in the center of chest, even with the child's armpits.
3. Bulky clothing, such as winter coats or multiple layers, can compress in a crash and leave the straps too loose to restrain your child, leading to increased risk of injury. Ideally, dress your child in thinner layers and wrap a coat or blanket over the buckled harness straps to keep them warm.
4. Even if you have a larger toddler, it is much safer to ride rear facing up to when your car seat's manufacture requirements for height/weight will allow. Do not change them to front facing because you fear they are uncomfortable. Children's joint spaces are not completely formed and they are actually very comfortable riding with their legs bent.
5. If you are unsure if your car seat is installed appropriately, go to your local fire department and they will ensure it is installed correctly. Read your manufacture installation guidelines to help you with a step by step process to ensure correct installation. You may want to call the fire department first as not every station offers this service.
6. Your child can safely use a seat belt when you can answer YES to all 5 questions below!
1. Can your child sit straight against the back of the vehicle seat?
2. Can your child’s legs bend at the knee on the edge of the vehicle seat?
3. Can your child sit comfortably in the vehicle seat without slouching for the whole trip?
4. Does the lap portion of the seat belt sit down on your child’s hips, touching the thighs?
5. Does the shoulder belt stay at the center of your child’s shoulder, crossing the collarbone?
By: Dr. Ashley Meenach, F.A.A.P.
References: https://www.aap.org, www. HealthyChildren.org, https://transportation.ky.gov/HighwaySafety