Car Seat Safety

Car Seat Safety
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have updated car seat safety guidelines and now recommend that toddlers ride in rear-facing car seats until the age of 2. This is one year longer than the original guideline, and is based on United States crash data collected in the last five years. Data has shows that 1-year-olds are five-times less likely to be injured in a car crash if they are in a rear-facing car seat. Children younger than 2 have relatively large heads and small necks, and front-facing car seats allow the force of a crash to jerk the child's head, potentially causing spinal cord injuries.

Pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears demonstrates which car seats to use at what age. If a child is younger than 2 and weighs less than 22 pounds, keep him or her in a rear-facing car seat. On your child's second birthday, or when he or she reaches more than 22 pounds, he or she may ride in a front-facing car seat. Dr. Sears recommends buying a convertible seat that can be turned around once your child reaches the correct age and weight. All children must ride in a booster seat until they are 4-feet, 9-inches tall, which ranges from 8 to 12 years old. If a child is too short to ride without a car seat, he or she is likely to slouch, resting the seat belt over the belly, which could crush the child's organs in an accident. Children under the age of 13 should not sit in the front seat.

Preventing Tragedy

In an effort to prevent this tragedy from happening to others, Lyn offers some advice:

• Visual reminders such as a stuffed animal can alert a parent to the child’s presence in the vehicle. When the child goes in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front seat so that it acts as a visual reminder of the child’s presence.

• Put your pocketbook, briefcase, or something that you will need with you when you exit the car, back with the child so that you see the child when you exit the vehicle.

• When you go into a location, take your child in first so you don’t get distracted once you’re inside, e.g. unloading groceries.

• Set up a communication policy with your daycare or childcare provider so that if you deviate from the agreed-upon schedule, the provider has a way to contact parents or guardians immediately.

• Use alert mechanisms like the Child Minder Smart Pad to signal the child’s presence in the vehicle.

Children Left in Hot Cars
A story that never fails to shock and dismay is one of responsible, upstanding parents having one fateful lapse in memory: forgetting their child in the car, causing his or her untimely death.

On a hot day, a car acts as a solar oven, Dr. Sears explains. See what happens inside a car within minutes.

Lyn shares her heartbreaking story of accidentally leaving her 9-month-old son in the car, where he died of hyperthermia, or heat stroke. If you think this can’t happen to you, think again.

“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare,” Lyn says tearfully. “I still feel responsible every day, and that will never go away.”

“What I have learned the hard way is that it absolutely can happen to anyone,” she says. “My goal is to make sure no parent feels the same way I do every day.”

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork outlines what happens in a human brain when it performs everyday routines, and how easily distractions can cause this sort of mental lapse.

Car Seat 101
A child will cycle through several car seats as he or she grows. At a minimum, children should ride rear-facing until they have reached at least 2 years of age and weigh at least 20 pounds.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should ride rear-facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat's manufacturer recommendation.

When children reach the highest weight or length allowed by the manufacturer of their infant-only seat, they should continue to ride rear-facing in a convertible seat. Recent studies recommend children face backwards as long as possible and the convertible car seat can be used until age four. The third and final car seat is the booster seat, which should be used until the child turns 8 or weighs 80 pounds.

*Guidelines according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. These guidelines are currently under review.

Dr. Sears demonstrates car seat progression and reminds parents to be sure to purchase car seats that have been tested and approved by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

How to Install a Car Seat
• Dr. Sears and Brooke Burke discuss the importance of correctly installing a car seat.