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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Parents PLEASE check your car and booster seats!

I cannot stress how important it is for parents to make sure their children are properly restrained while in a moving vehicle, whether in a car seat or a booster seat. I also strongly believe that is pertinent that a trained car seat technician (yes -- a professional) checks your car seat(s) and/or booster seats(s) to make sure they are not only properly installed, but that you are using them correctly when your children are present. Thankfully, through the agency I work at, a friend/co-worker is a trained car seat technician and not only checked my car seat, but made sure I knew how to correctly restrain my infant son into it. It isn't as easy as it seems and I more often than not, see parents improperly restraining their children into their car seats.

That being said, here are some important guidelines about infant car seat safety:

·         For the best possible protection, keep your baby in a rear-facing child safety seat in a back seat for as long as possible - up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. The "12 months and 20 pounds" rule that many parents cite when turning their child forward-facing in the car is actually the minimum size and age requirement for that change.  New recommendations suggest that children remain rear-facing to age 2.

·         Keep a baby rear-facing in a convertible seat until he or she reaches the maximum height or weight allowed by the manufacturer. For many children that will be 30, 35 or even 40 pounds. Many kids will be over age 2 when they reach that weight. Rear-facing occupants are safest.

·         Use your baby’s car seat rear-facing and semi-reclined to no more than 45 degrees, so the baby’s head stays in contact with the seat and the baby’s airway stays open. Read the car seat instructions.

·         Make sure the buckled harness straps that keep your baby properly positioned and secured in the car seat fit snugly. Loose harness straps don’t provide maximum protection. Be sure the harness is tight enough that you cannot pinch webbing at the shoulder.

·         Position the shoulder straps through the slots at or below your baby’s shoulders.

·         Adjust the chest clip to armpit level.

·         Use either the car’s seat belt or LATCH system to lock the car seat into the car. Do not use both systems at the same time.

·         Your car seat should not move more than one inch side to side or front to back. Grab the car seat at the safety belt or LATCH path to test it.

·         Every car seat has an expiration date. Generally, it is six years from manufacture. Many have the expiration date stamped on the seat. Contact the manufacturer of your specific seat to find out what its expiration date is.

·         Never buy a used car seat if you do not know its full history. Never use a car seat that has been in a crash. Avoid seats sold at flea markets or yard sales or online.

·         Do not use any products that did not come from the manufacturer in or with the car seat. Car seat fabrics meet strict fire safety codes.

·         Add-on toys can injure your child in a crash.

·         Find the frontal airbags in your vehicle by checking the owner’s manual. Never put a rear-facing car seat in front of an active frontal airbag. Children are always safest in a back seat.

·         Have your car seat checked by a currently certified child passenger safety technician to make sure it is properly installed.

·         Never leave a child alone in a vehicle - not even for a minute.

To learn more helpful tips to keep your children safe, please visit:

 Safe Kids Greater Sacramento

The site has made it very simple to navigate through safety tips for children in various age categories and applicable to at home, at play or on the move.

Also, if your child is 8 years of age or younger, please read the important information below regarding the LAW in California around booster seats.

In passing the new booster seat law, which will extend the current law by requiring children to ride in booster seats in the back seat until their 8th birthday, California joins more than 37 other states with strong booster seat laws.  The law, which was co-sponsored by the California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health, Safe Kids California, and California State Alliance of YMCA’s, mirrors the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  

Seat belts are designed for the average adult male, and do not properly fit a child who is not at least 4’9” tall.  Children in the 6-7 year old age group are particularly at risk because they may be too big for many child safety seats and yet too small to fully benefit from seat belts.  A booster seat raises the child to reposition the seat belt properly so that the lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs rather than the stomach.  The shoulder harness should lie snug across the shoulder and chest – the strongest part of the child’s body – and not cross the neck or face.   

Auto collisions are the leading cause of death for children ages 4-12 and one of the leading causes of injury and disability.  Parents who want to keep their children safe will check the law to ensure they are doing what is required to help avoid injury in case of an accident.  We have long felt that it is a dangerous disservice to California parents to lead them to believe that by following the current law – which requires children up to six years old or sixty pounds to ride in a child restraint device in the back seat – they are doing what’s best to safeguard their children, when the data shows us otherwise.  The fact is that using a booster seat, instead of a seat belt, reduces a child’s risk of injury by 59%. 

The new law, which will extend protection to 6 and 7-year-olds, goes into effect January 1, 2012.  Acknowledging that seat belts fit a taller child appropriately, the new law includes a provision that a child under 8 years of age who is 4 feet 9 inches in height or taller may be properly restrained by a safety belt rather than a child safety seat or booster seat.  To maximize safety, parents should select a car seat based on their child’s age and size, choose a car seat or booster that fits in their vehicle, and use it every time.   Parents can check for car seat check-up events in their area to get help from trained safety technicians on proper installation and fit for their child. 

A Safe Kids Trauma Coordinator commented, the new law will “protect hundreds of children every year from intra-abdominal injury, lumbar chance fractures, or multi-system trauma from ejection due to inappropriate restraints.”   We know the new law will save lives and we are elated! 

Please share this information with your families and friends and help educate folks on car seat and booster seat safety! 


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