Earlier this month, the Washington Post ran a pretty in-depth story on the subject of car seat mistakes that parents make. These mistakes can be fatal. If you or someone you know has young children, it’s a must-read. As a parent of a young child, I’m definitely taking the advice seriously.
“Car accidents are the No. 1 killer of children ages 0 to 19 in the United States,” the story notes. “Safe Kids Worldwide says car seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent, but they have to be installed and used correctly. More than half of them aren’t.”
Below is the first of the five mistakes, plus the details and evidence that the WP story provides. Below it are the other four mistakes, which you’ll have to read about in the full story. I strongly suggest it.
Mistake 1: “Promoting” your child too soon
“We parents seem to want to keep our kids young — except when it comes to their car seats. That’s misguided. In addition to delaying things such as violent video games and makeup, we should delay kids’ progression through the stages of car seats. They should stay in each position and seat as long as they safely can. Each step up is actually a bit more dangerous because it offers less protection for growing bodies.
- Rear-facing seat: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years old or reach the weight and height limits set by the seat manufacturer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agrees.Research has shown that rear-facing seats distribute the force of a crash over a large area of a baby or toddler’s body, keeping them safer. Look for an infant seat with higher height and weight limits so you can keep your child in it longer. Better yet, Consumer Reports says transitioning to a convertible seat, but keeping it rear-facing, has additional head-protection benefits.
- Forward-facing seat with five-point harness: These seats also attach to your vehicle. NHTSA says to keep your child in this type of seat ‘until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.’ The challenge is that those limits vary widely — from about 48 to 58 inches in height and 50 to 90 pounds in weight. In fact, if you look at NHTSA’s car seat finder tool, you have a choice of either a 5-point harness seat or a booster seat for two entire years, between ages 4 and 6. This is the problem Miller ran into. Her son Kyle was heavy enough to age out of the forward-facing seat they owned, so they moved him to a booster. A five-point harness seat might have saved him.Manufacturers now offer larger five-point harness seats that accommodate older kids. And if your child resists, point out that NASCAR drivers also use five-point harnesses.
- Booster seat: You shouldn’t skip this step. Booster seats are designed to raise children to a height where they can safely wear the vehicle’s built-in seat belt. Consumer Reports says high-backed boosters are safer than backless ones because they do a better job of properly positioning the seat belt across the child’s chest, hips and thighs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says booster seats can reduce a child’s risk of serious injury by 45 percent.”
The other four mistakes:
Mistake 2: Obeying state law instead of federal recommendations
“State laws are made by politicians who aren’t crash engineers…”
Mistake 3: Not reading the manuals
“Yes, that’s manuals — plural. You need to read both…”
Mistake 4: Passing up free help
“Installing a car seat correctly is not easy. Certified experts…”
Mistake 5: Not considering the seat’s history
“Safety advocates suggest not accepting a hand-me-down car seat, because…”
Read the full story here—and stay safe.
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