It’s every parent’s nightmare: being in a car accident with your children in the car.
According to Safe Seats for Kids, car crashes are the number one cause of death and injury for all children. Car seats help to absorb and spread the impact of the crash over a wider area than a seat belt alone. This helps protect the child’s body and their critically important brain and spinal cord.
When a child is involved in a car accident*, their car seat can:
- Reduce the risk of death by 28%.
- Reduce the risk of injury by 71% to 82%.
- Booster seats reduce the risk of non-fatal injuries by 45% compared to just seat belt use in children between the ages of 4 and 8.
Three Steps to Car Seat Safety
It seems simple enough: buy a car seat and use it for your child. However, experts in the St. Elizabeth Mother Baby Postpartum unit stress the importance of three critical steps to car seat safety:
- Does your child’s car seat correctly fit them?
- Check safercar.gov and the seat’s manufacturer materials to make sure you have the correct car seat for your child’s height, weight and age. If you have a previously used car seat, double check that the car seat hasn’t been in an accident and isn’t expired.
- Is your child’s car seat installed correctly?
- Up to 80% of car seats are not installed correctly. Check with your local police and fire departments – most will check to make sure your child’s car seat is properly installed. St. Elizabeth offers a list of available community resources that check for proper car seat installation.
- Remember to keep the seat at a 45-degree angle and that the car seat should never move more than one inch if it’s correctly strapped in.
- Is your child in the correct position?
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their recommendations on car seat safety in 2018, stating that children should remain in their rear-facing car seats as long as possible. The AAP recommends that parents wait to turn children forward-facing until the child has reached the highest weight or highest height allowed by their car seat. Previous AAP recommendations suggested children stay rear-facing until they turn two; the new guidelines no longer have a specific age guideline.
- It’s tempting to turn your child around if they appear “scrunched” – and it’s certainly easier to pass back snacks and communicate with them – but stick to the proper guidelines and keep your child rear-facing until they meet the car seat limits. Rear-facing car seats will help to protect your child’s spine, neck and head in the event of an accident.
Top Tips for Car Seat Safety
Teri Wilde, Nurse Manager for Mother Baby Postpartum at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, has worked in maternal care for more than 33 years.
“I always recommend making the car seats the first order of business in the car,” says Teri. “Buckle your children into their seats immediately and don’t start or move the car until they are secure – and until your own seat belt is secure. It will be a habit before you know it.”
Teri’s additional tips for car seat safety include:
- ALWAYS have your child secured in their car seat – even if you’re just driving a few short blocks.
- Never use extra padding, blankets or infant head supports that go behind or under the child.
- Blankets can be on the side of the child or around the neck or at the crotch – but make sure the blankets won’t interfere with the harness position.
- Car seats are only tested for one car crash and should never be used after a crash.
- If at all possible, start your baby in a brand-new car seat. Borrowing or buying a second-hand car seat could be dangerous – it’s impossible to know the history of the seat, whether it has been in a crash or if there are missing instructions or labels.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare will be participating in the Edgewood Fire/EMS Open House on Sunday, October 7 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. We invite you to stop by and pick up your FREE Emergency Child Identification Card that may be adhered to your child’s car seat.