Securing your precious cargo
The hows and whys of child passenger seat safety.
Juice Staff Published: 6/21/2018
You might not realize it, but your car can be one of the most dangerous places for your child. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, more than 3,000 children in the United States died in motor vehicle accidents in 2012 alone.
And while the number of motor vehicle fatalities in children under the age of 13 has decreased since 1975, the Centers for Disease Control say car accidents accounted for 38 percent of all unintentional deaths in kids age 1 to 13 in 2015.
The numbers might be troubling, but you’re not helpless to prevent the same fate from befalling your child. Correctly securing your child not just in the backseat, but in the correct type of seat, ensures he or she will be safe during your next car ride.
Finding the right fit
Most parents know their kids should ride in the back seat, but there’s much more to child passenger safety than that. You should always make sure you have the right kind of seat to suit your child’s age, weight, height and other factors.
Ages <1-2: From birth to age 2, your child should ride in a rear-facing seat. This is the safest position for your new little one, and oftentimes can continue to be even after they turn 2; it’s recommended that your child is in a rear-facing seat until they can no longer physically fit in one.
Ages 4-7: Once your child graduates from rear-facing, they’re ready for the traditional front-facing car seat.
Ages 8-12: After your kid outgrows his front-facing car seat, it’s time for a booster seat. Booster seats do exactly what the name implies: they boost your child up so the back seat’s seat belt can fit. Note that the lap belt should fit snugly across the upper thighs while the shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest.
Eventually, your child will outgrow the booster seat as well. However, it’s important that they continue to ride in the backseat with the standard seat belt until age 13.
More than clicking a few buckles
Okay, so you’ve done your research and got the perfect seat for your child’s age, weight and height. It’s comfortable, the buckles are snug and secure, and you’re confident your kid will be safe the next time you’re on the road.
Well, unfortunately, you probably installed it incorrectly. You’re not alone, though.
“Roughly 80 percent of all car seats are installed incorrectly,” said Cynthia Dennis, RN, coordinator of Safe Kids Northeast Florida, led by THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Although, in our personal experience, it seems closer to 90 percent.”
Dennis and the rest of the team at Safe Kids Northeast Florida operate regular car seat inspection stations where parents can make an appointment to have their car seat installations vetted by Safe Kids-certified experts.
A typical visit to the inspection station starts with the current car seat being run through a gauntlet of examinations to ensure it’s appropriate for its rider’s age, size and weight. If the seat is sized correctly and is in good condition – believe it or not, car seats have an expiration date as the plastic that makes up the seat can get brittle and break in old age – then it passes inspection.
Next, the inspector guides the parent through the correct installation process. Each inspector has been certified through Safe Kids’ three-day learning course, so they’re sure to catch even the smallest of errors a parent might make during installation.
After the inspection, parents can drive away knowing their children are safer in the car than when they arrived. Which, as Dennis put it, is the entire idea behind Child Passenger Safety Week.
“Whether it’s helping parents find the right car seat for their child or teaching them the correct way to install the seat, our goal is always the same,” Dennis said. “We just want your child to be as safe as possible at all times on the road.”
Visit Safe Kids online to learn more about child passenger safety or to find a car seat inspection station near you. Appointments for car seat inspections can be made by calling 904.202.4302.