Sometimes, especially with young children, making sure everyone is in the car and safely buckled up can be the trickiest part of the day! We know that just getting your children to an appointment at Willows Pediatrics can involve various forms of car seats, boosters and seat belts. So, to make sure all of our patients arrive here safely, we wanted to go over current car safety guidelines.
According to the CDC, in 2008, an average of 4 children ages 14 or younger were killed in motor vehicle crashes every day, and many more were injured. These statistics are sobering, but there is also reassuring news: proper car seat safety can make a huge difference. In 2008, restraint use saved the lives of 244 children ages 4 and younger and child safety seats reduce the risk of death in car crashes by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers ages one to four.
The AAP has put their car safety recommendations for 2010 on HealthyChildren.org.
According to this very detailed paper, infants should be placed in rear-facing car seats and always in the back seat of the car. Infants should ride rear-facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer. (At a minimum, under Connecticut law, children must ride rear-facing until they have reached at least 1 year of age AND weigh at least 20 pounds.)
When toddlers reach the highest weight or length allowed by the manufacturer of their infant-only seat, they should continue to ride rear-facing in a convertible seat as long as possible—to the highest weight and height allowed by the manufacturer of their convertible seat. When they have outgrown the rear-facing seat, they should use a forward-facing seat with a full harness as long as they fit.
School aged children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seats should ride in booster seats. For children ages 4 to 7, booster seats reduce injury risk by 59% compared to safety belts alone. Children should stay in a booster seat until adult belts fit correctly (usually when a child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age). In Connecticut state law requires that children remain in booster seats until they are over 6 years of age AND 60 pounds! (Both the age and weight requirements must be met.)
Lap and Shoulder Belts in the Back Seat
Even when your child is able to sit without a car seat or booster of any kind, the safest place in the car is the back seat. Whether they like it or not, children should ride in the back seat using a lap and shoulder seat belt until 13 years of age.
One of the biggest problems with car seats is not that parents are using the wrong ones, but that they are not properly installed. Even the “safest” seat may not protect your child adequately in a crash if it is used incorrectly. The AAP has published a wonderful list of items to check once you think you’ve taken care of the car seat. If you’re unsure, most of our local communities offer car seat check services to help out new parents. Police departments in Easton, Fairfield, Bridgeport, Westport and Wilton along with fire departments in Weston and Norwalk are among the local groups who will check car seats. (Phone numbers are listed here, so you can call for an appointment.)
With these guidelines in mind, we hope that all of our patients will remain safe in the event of an accident on the road. We look forward to seeing you soon. And remember: buckle up and ride safely!
For additional links to information on car safety visit: http://www.aap.org/healthtopics/carseatsafety.cfm.