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It’s officially the holiday season! This means lots of road trips to visit out of town family and friends, driving to look at holiday decorations and going to holiday gatherings. With all of this traveling, the safety of your children is always of the utmost importance. Here are some child car Safety tips to keep your family safe.
The first rule of child car safety is to make sure to use the right car seat or booster seat for their age and size. Did you know three out of every four car seats are used incorrectly? When used correctly, car safety seats prevent harm being done in case of a collision or other accident.
Never use a car seat that
– is too old
– has visible cracks
-has been in an accident
-doesn’t come with instructions
If you don’t know the car seat’s history, don’t use it! You should always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your car safety seat. You want to know all the ins and outs of your child car safety seat.
When installing a car seat, ensure that it is tightly secured. It should be tight enough so that it moves less than one inch side to side and forward and back when pulling at the bottom near the attachment points. After you install your car seat, have it checked by a trained technician. Go to seatcheck.org to find a trained technician near you in the United States. If only using one seat in your vehicle, the safest place to put it is in the middle of the backseat.
When a child changes car seats is dependent on age, weight, and developmental needs. Be sure to always check all instruction manuals to ensure proper safety measures.
There are a few stages of car safety seats and they all vary by age and the size of the child.
Newborn to 2-4 Years
The first seat your child will ride in should be a rear facing child car safety seat. There are traditional rear facing seats or convertible rear facing seats. A convertible rear facing seat can easily convert to a front facing seat when your child is big enough for it.
Keep your childrens’ car seats rear-facing from their very first car ride until they are between the ages of 2 and 4. They also must reach the maximum height and weight limit of their rear-facing seat before they can go front facing. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be kept rear facing as long as possible. Do NOT place a rear facing seat in front of an airbag.
Toddler and Preschooler
Once your child outgrows their rear facing seat, they can move up to a forward facing seat with a harness. Ensure that the harness shoulder straps are positioned at or just above your child’s shoulders. The straps must be properly secured and snug.
School Aged Children
A booster seat is acceptable once your child has reached the height and weight limit of their forward facing car seat. This is usually when children are 4 years of age, weigh 40 or more pounds, and are mature enough to properly ride in a booster seat. High-back booster seats should be used in vehicles without headrests or with low seat backs.
Children should not be out of a booster seat until they can fit properly in an adult seat belt. This is usually when the child is 4 foot 10 inches or taller. The child’s lower back must be up against the vehicle seat, with the knees bending at the edge of the seat. The lap belt must lay properly along the upper thighs. The shoulder belt needs to lay along the chest between the shoulder and the neck. Adult belts are not designed for children and can actually cause a lot of harm to them in case of an accident.
A Note About Winter And Car Seats
Car seats and winter coats do not mix. If there was an accident, upon impact, the coat will compress. This makes the harness on the car seat too loose to protect your child. Take off the coat before strapping them in the car. Warm your vehicle before entering or use a blanket over the car seat to keep the child warm.
More Tips for Safety
The best protection is prevention! Make sure you are driving safe at all times. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by things like your cell phone.. Stay sober when on the road, follow the speed limit, and stay aware of what is going on around your vehicle. Always look twice before you move your vehicle. In the U.S., thousands of children are killed or seriously injured every year because a driver backing up didn’t see them.
Be a good example and always wear your seat belt. Make sure other adult passengers have theirs on properly as well. Do not let anyone loop their arms through the seat belt or wear it other than the way it was intended to be worn.
Make sure to ALWAYS buckle them in. Even on a short trip, accidents can happen. According to the CDC, seat belts reduce serious and fatal injuries by 80%.
Never ride with children in your lap! If the car is on and moving, children must be securely in the appropriate seat for their age and size.
Seat children in the back seat. Children are safer in the back until at least the age of 13. If a child must ride in the front seat, make sure to push the seat back as far as possible.
Make sure everyone in the car is remaining calm. Don’t allow the children to get too wild in the car and become a distraction to the driver. Distractions cause accidents.
Do not allow your children to eat while in the car. This sounds silly, but think about what would happen if they started to choke.