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Child Car Safety Information

Posted May 1st, 2012
by Staff Writers

As a parent, your top priority is to keep your child safe and healthy. Driving is risky, but the right car seats can dramatically reduce many common risks. From the moment your child is born, you need to make sure that he travels in an age-appropriate car seat. It’s important not to rush him through the various car seat transitions. By familiarizing yourself with the basics about car seats, you will be able to protect your child as fully and completely as possible. There are very clear rules and guidelines out there, so staying current on these topics is fairly easy. Brush up on the basics of child car safety and car seats below.

Infants

Special considerations have to be made when traveling with an infant. His car seat should be specifically designed to accommodate infants. The three main things to look for in an infant car seat are a rear-facing design, adequate head and neck support and quality construction. You aren’t going to find an infant car seat that is designed to face forward. It’s critical to support the head and neck of an infant because his weak muscles can lead to serious, life-threatening injuries. Some car seats come with special accessories that are designed to support an infant’s head and neck. If yours doesn’t come with such features, you can buy accessories that do so at baby supply stores.

Transitioning to Different Car Seats

For a long time, the American Academy of Pediatricians advised parents to keep their children in rear-facing car seats until at least age one and a weight of 20 pounds. The AAP recently revised its recommendations and now advises parents to keep their children in rear-facing seats for as long as possible. Ideally, your child should stay in a rear-facing seat until he is at least two years old. When shopping for a rear-facing car seat, look for one that has the highest weight limit possible. The standard weight limit for rear-facing seats is 30 pounds.

The Backseat is the Safest Place for All Children

The backseat of a car is dramatically safer than the front seat of a car. That’s especially true for children and infants, who can be seriously injured in the front seat. One peril is the driver’s side airbag, which can injure or kill small passengers. Another issue is that the front of the car is a lot more likely to incur serious damages during an accident. As a result, the people who are seated in the front of a vehicle are a lot more likely to be injured or killed. The official recommendation is for children to remain in the backseat until they are at least 13 years old.

Don’t Use Car Seats as Cribs

After returning home from a long drive, you may be happy to see that your child is fast asleep. As tempting as it may be to simply allow him to sleep all night in his car seat, you should avoid doing so. Infants shouldn’t sleep in upright or semi-upright positions, which can restrict airflow to the lungs. Such positions can also exacerbate conditions like GERD, and they can cause flat spots on the backs of infants’ heads. Finally, car seats can be dangerous when used as cribs. When not installed in a vehicle, a car seat could tip over and cause injuries.

Switching to a Forward-Facing Seat

Parents are often eager to switch their children to forward-facing seats. As noted above, a child should be at least two years old and weigh at least 30 pounds before he is switched to a forward-facing seat. When installing this type of seat, it is critical to follow the manufacturer’s directions to the letter. You should also heed the advice and warnings that are printed on the seat itself. To achieve the safest results, you should kneel onto a forward-facing seat while fastening it. The harness straps should fit snugly and be flat against a child’s shoulders, and the retainer clip should be positioned near his armpits. His back should be flat against the car seat.

Booster Seats

According to the AAP, children should remain in booster seats until they are four feet, nine inches in height and between the ages of eight and 12. A booster seat is designed to make a car’s seat belt fit properly on a child. The shoulder belt should stretch across the middle of a child’s chest, and it should not be near his face. The lap belt should be snug and low, and it should stretch across the upper thighs or the hips. It should not stretch across the stomach area. It is important to use a booster seat until a car’s seat belts fit properly.

Seat Belts

When your child is big enough to sit in the backseat without a booster seat, you should still make absolutely sure that your car’s seat belts fit him properly. Make sure that he doesn’t fidget with his seat belt and push it out of position. Kids sometimes slip their shoulder belts behind them or use them in other inappropriate ways. You should make sure that your child understands the importance of using his seat belt properly. Periodically check to make sure that your child’s belt is positioned properly.

Keeping Your Child Safe

With the right car seats, booster seats and seat belt use, your child should remain as safe as can be while traveling by car. As tempted as you may be to move your child up to the next type of seat, you should remember that it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Keep your child in the right seat until he completely exceeds the maximum allowable height and weight limits.

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