One of the things very high on my agenda is carseat safety. While we all are concerned about the well-being of our children, I have found that not all parents are as educated as they should be about this issue.
Car safety starts the moment your infant comes home from the hospital. You should have a new, rear-facing, infant carseat waiting to transport your child home in. Buying a carseat thrift is risky as you do not necessarily know when it was made or if it has been in a car accident. You should never drive whole holding or nursing your infant, nor should an infant ever be out of his carseat while the vehicle is in motion or in traffic. Never put a rear-facing carseat in the front seat of the vehicle or anywhere that an airbag may hit the back of it.
There is a lot of confusion about when to turn a child to a forward-facing position. The law is a year old AND twenty pounds. This doesn’t mean that your 19lb baby an ride facing forward on his first baby. This does not mean that your 20lb 9-month-old can ride forward-facing. You have to be a year old and twenty pounds to ride forward-facing, junior, and that is the end of the story. Most carseats have the law explained on them, though some carseat warnings are outdated or not in accordance with the law. Do not trust what the carseat says. That the carseat is made for a child of a certain age and weight does not mean your child is ready to ride forward-facing. Before turning your child forward check the law in your state. If your child is cramped in his carseat facing backwards and seems to have little leg room, try buying a reversible carseat for larger children that can eventually be turned into the forward position. The Cosco Scenara provides lots of leg-room for babies that aren’t quite ready to face forward.
Moving your child to a booster seat is part of the ritual of a kid graduating from toddler to child. Booster seats do not restrain a child. They make them sit higher on the seat so that the seatbelt fits appropriately. Your child is ready for a booster seat when, while sitting in one, the seatbelt goes across his chest without touching his neck. Before then, the safest place for him is in a 5-point harness carseat. They make ones that will fit a child up to 60lbs. Some of them only give your child some extra height, and others are similar to regular carseats but are designed only to position a seatbelt. Usually a child is not ready to graduate from a booster seat until he or she is 4’9″ tall and between 8-12 years of age.
Booster seats do not protect your child from seatbelt failure. Only a carseat installed with the latch system can do that. When using the latch system, remember that the latches in your car are only designed to support a certain amount of weight. Even if the carseat will hold up to 60lbs, the latch may only be approved up to 50lbs. That is something you should check when using a carseat for a heavier child.
Children should always wear their shoulder strap. A lot of children put it behind them because it bothers them, gets in the way, and hinders their movement. A lot of parents allow this because of the myth that the shoulder strap would choke the child in case of an accident, which is unlikely. If the shoulder belt does not yet fit your child comfortably, then he needs to be in a booster seat wearing the shoulder strap in the appropriate position. Lap belts provide little security in case of an accident, especially if the child is in the front seat where it is most important to be wearing a seatbelt. Children under the age of 12 and under 5′ should not ride in the front seat of a vehicle because the air bag may suffocate them or break their neck in the case of an emergency.
Seatbelts should always be secure, but not too tight. Multiple passengers should never share the same seatbelt. Unfastening your seatbelt even for a moment while the vehicle is moving or in traffic can be dangerous. Should an accident happen at that very moment you would not be protected. It is also not in a child’s best interest to be seated next to an airbag. Remember that one of the best things you can do for your child is to protect your child from losing a parent and set a good example by wearing your own seatbelt.
Unknown, “Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families 2006.” American Academy of Pediatrics. URL: http://www.aap.org/family/carseatguide.htm