Buckle Up - Car Seat Safety
November 30, 2006
Heading home for the holidays? You've probably made a list to make sure you've remembered everything. But before you start the car, there's one other thing that you must do to keep your family safe. Dr. Mom has the details on this important travel tip.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1-14, and the second leading cause of death for children ages 0-1. The proper use of child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 71% for infants (less than 1 year old) and by 54% for toddlers (1-4 years old) in passenger cars.
Parents and adults should set the example for children by properly using seatbelts themselves. Everyone riding in the automobile should be properly restrained.
Three types of safety seats are available:
A child is ready to use a standard safety belt when:
- Infant only or rear-facing convertible for children 0 - 1 year old, and weighing up to 35 pounds. Your child should ride in a rear-facing seat until he or she reaches the weight limit or height limit of the seat.
- Convertible/forward-facing for children 1-4 years old and 20 to 40 pounds. Children may ride in a forward-facing seat when they are at least one year old AND weight at least 20 pounds. Keep your child in a forward-facing safety seat as long as the seat allows for it.
- Booster seats for children 4 to 8 years old, over 40 pounds. Safety belts are designed for adults, not children. A booster seat lifts a child up and prevents severe head, abdominal and spinal cord injuries in a crash.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends replacing a car safety seat if the seat has been in a moderate or severe crash. If the crash was minor, the seat does not automatically need to be replaced. A crash is considered minor if all of the following are true:
- The child is sitting all the way back and the knees are bent over the edge of the seat cushion
- The lap belt fits snug over hips and upper thighs
- The should belt fits snug across the center of the child's chest
- The vehicle could be driven away from the crash.
- The vehicle door closest to the car safety seat was not damaged.
- No one in the vehicle was injured.
- The air bags did not go off.
- You can't see any damage to the car safety seat.
If you are unsure, call the manufacturer of the seat. See the resource section for manufacturer names and phone numbers.
Avoid using used car safety seats, especially if obtained from a yard sale or secondhand (consignment) shop because there is no way to know the seat's history. Also never use a car safety seat that:
- Is too old. Look on the label for the date it was made. Do not use seats that are more than 5 years old. Many manufacturers recommend that car safety seats only be used for 5 to 6 years from the date of manufacture. Check with the manufacturer to find out how long the company recommends using its seat.
- Has any visible cracks in the frame of the seat.
- Does not have a label with the date of manufacture and model number. Without these, you cannot check to see if the seat has been recalled.
- Does not come with instructions. You need them to know how to use the seat. You can get a copy of the instruction manual by contacting the manufacturer.
- Is missing parts. Used car safety seats often come without important parts. Check with the manufacturer to make sure you can get the right parts.
- Is a shield booster. Although shield boosters are still around, the AAP recommends against their use. Major injuries have occurred to children in shield boosters. The only time shield boosters should be used is if the shield is removed and the seat is used with a lap and shoulder belt.
- Was recalled. You can find out by calling the manufacturer or by contacting the following:
If the seat has been recalled, be sure to follow the instructions to fix it or to get the parts you need. You also may get a registration card for future recall notices from the hotline.
All safety seats and vehicles are different, so read and follow your vehicle owner's manual and the safety seat's instructions to make sure your child's seat is properly installed. Your local police department may assist you in insuring your child's safety seat is properly installed.
Special thanks to Officer James McCraw from the Tyler, Texas Police Department for his assistance with this segment.