One of my volunteer positions is as a Child Passenger Safety Tech. Vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and how you are secured in the car can make a huge difference between life and death. According to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), 75% of car seats and/or children aren’t properly secured. This Saturday there are checkup events everywhere. Check the Safe Kids site to find an event near you. If you are near Salem Oregon, come visit me.
In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week, here are a few common mistakes caregivers make:
What is the best car seat? We would assume the most expensive one or the one with the most bells and whistles would be best. In actuality, the best car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, and you can install it correctly every time. Is isn’t necessarily the most expensive.
Where do you think car seat straps should be? Do you think they should be below, at, or above the shoulders? It actually depends on what kind of car seat. For rear facing, the straps should be at or below the shoulders. For forward facing, the straps should be at or above the shoulders.
Raise your hand if you think it is safer to use the LATCH system and the seat belt together. Raise your hand if you think you should only use one. You would think, at least I did, using the LATCH system and the seat belt together, should double protect the child, right? Nope, using both together actually compromises the other. You should only use on belting system.
The one message I want to shout from the mountain tops. I tell EVERYONE who has a baby. Doctors suggest 2 years old, but we recommend keep your baby rear facing as long as possible. Once your baby has outgrown their infant seat, the next step is a convertible car seat. It starts out rear facing then you can turn it forward facing after the child hits a certain weight (specified on the car seat).
How do you know when the straps are tight enough? My personal philosophy, when they are buckled in and tightened, give it one last tug. My husband always tells me how uncomfortable our child must be. My response, “they aren’t crying so it must not be painful.” Do you want to know the test to tell if the straps need another tug? Try to pinch some slack up at the shoulders (show example). If you can pinch any slack, tighten it up. You shouldn’t be able to pinch any slack.
The retainer clip should be at the arm pits. You want the child snug. If there was a crash, you don’t want the child slipping out the top and flying forward.
For older children wearing seat belts with or without a booster, the proper placement is crucial. It is important that the belt hits the 2 strongest parts of the body. The shoulder strap should hit the shoulder. The lap portion should be over the hip bones. This is also true of an adult.
One of the biggest misconceptions is how tight the car seat needs to be buckled in. Did you know it can move up to 1 inch? Most people grab it at the top to test it. It actually needs to be tested at the belt path. Give it a little shake.
Now, go out and check all the car seats in your car. If you want to make sure the car seat if properly installed and you child is riding in it safely, I encourage you to find a clinic near you at Safe Kids. They are happening all the time!
Protect your number one life long investment!