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Correct car seat use - tips for child safety

Posted Jul 23 2010 12:00am

LoyolaMedicine.org - Car accidents remain the leading cause of death and disability in children in the United States.

Stricter laws and car seat education programs have dramatically decreased the mortality and morbidity rates in motor vehicle accidents in the last several years. Yet, thousands of children die or are injured in car accidents each year.

“Incorrect usage of car seats and child restraints has played a large role in motor vehicle accidents continuing to be the leading killer of children in our country,” said Karen Judy, MD, associate professor department of pediatrics Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Studies have shown that seven out of 10 car seats are not installed correctly.

“If your child weighs less than 80 pounds and is shorter than 57 inches a seat belt will lay across the child’s neck and belly. In the event of an accident this puts pressure on sensitive areas with the potential for serious injuries including spinal cord and abdominal injuries or even death,” said Judy. “No matter how short the trip, if your child is in the car he or she should be in a child safety seat.”

She offers the following to help parents keep their kids safe while traveling in the car.

Car Seat Tips for Child Safety

1) Make sure you have the correct kind of car seat for your child’s age, height and weight.

a. Most infant carrier car seats only hold up to 22 pounds and should always be used in a rear-facing position.

b. Keep children rear facing as long as possible. They should not be forward facing until they are over one year and weigh more than 20 pounds.

c. Consider using a convertible car seat that has a five-point restraint. Again, keep a child in a rear-facing position for as long as possible.

d. Children should remain in forward-facing car seats till they are over 4 years old or weigh more than 40 pounds.

e. Booster seats should be used for children ages 4 to 8 or older. A child should continue to ride in a booster seat until he or she is at least 4 feet, 9 inches or taller, no matter their age.

f. Children under age 13 should never sit in the front seat because air bags are powerful and can crush a child.

2) Make sure the car seat is installed and used correctly.

a. Read the car seat instructions and your vehicle owner’s manual thoroughly before attempting to install the seat into the car.

b. Never put a car seat in the front seat of a car.

c. Have a professional check to ensure the seat is installed correctly. Most police stations will check and install the car seat for free or visit SeatCheck.org to find a safety seat inspection site close to you.

d. After placing a child in a car seat make sure the harness is level with the shoulders and the straps are secure and tight.

3) If possible, avoid buying a used car seat.

a. Car seats are expensive, but they can save your child’s life. A previously owned car seat should be used only if you are certain it has never been in an accident and has all parts including instructions.

b. Seats that are six years old, or older should never be used.

4) Set an example.

a. Always wear your seat belt. Studies show that 40 percent of drivers without seat belts had unrestrained children passengers as well.

b. Never drink and drive. More than two-thirds of fatally injured children were killed while riding with a drunk driver.

“By taking simple, but important measures parents can protect their children from the number one killer in our nation,” said Judy. “I grew up flopping around in the back seat, too, but studies have shown that by taking these precautions the likelihood of your child being killed or disabled in a motor vehicle crash decreases significantly. It’s an easy way to save kids’ lives.”

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