While every car seat is crash tested up to 35 miles per hour, those safety designs become ineffective if it isn’t properly installed and fitted to your child. With so many different car and seat models, this can be confusing. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of a free safety inspection, held in most communities.
Cathy MacCallum, a health educator with Community Health Education & Resources (CHER) and certified car seat inspector, says 90 to 99 percent of car seats she inspects are not properly installed. “These are not stupid people,” she hastens to add. “That’s why you need to go through an inspection. There are so many points to check.”
An inspector checks everything—whether your car seat has any recalls or is past its expiration date, if it is properly installed in your vehicle and properly fitted to your child. You leave with the car seat safely installed and with peace of mind.
One common mistake, says MacCallum, are loose car seats. “You have to crawl in and put a knee on it to apply enough pressure. A lot of people don’t know how to engage seatbelt locking mechanism.”
A safe installation takes a lot of strength and you have to pull the seatbelt all the way out until you hear that click, she says, then you lock the seat into place and pull really hard to get all the slack out of the seatbelt.
Another common problem is when the clasp on the harness is low down across the child’s belly, instead of even with the armpits. In a crash the child could eject from the seat.
Once she became a car seat inspector, MacCallum says she thinks about it all the time, because she’s seen the statistics, seen what a car crash can do and seen so many seats improperly installed. While parents and grandparents typically think about the child’s comfort while riding, she’s focused on ensuring your child is as safe as possible during a car crash.
“It just grips you. If I can prevent one injury in a lifetime it would be so worth it.”
To find a certified car seat inspector and free inspection in your area, go to www.usa.safekids.org and click “Safe Kids Near You.” In the Spokane area you can also go to www.cherspokane.org and click “Parenting, Car Seat Checks.”
How do you know if your child is seatbelt ready? When you can answer yes to all of these questions:
- Is she 4’9” and about 80 pounds?
- While sitting all the way back against the seat, do his knees bend comfortably? If your child has to scootch forward, he isn’t ready.
- Does the shoulder belt cross in the center of the shoulder and chest?
- Does the lap belt fit snug across her hips? If it rides up her tummy, she isn’t ready.
- Will all of the above stay true throughout your trip? If the child isn’t comfortable like this, the booster is better.
Car Seat Safety Guidelines for Growing Kids
Birth to age two: Infants and toddlers up to 20 lbs should ride in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat.
Ages 2-3: Front-facing car seat with a harness in the back seat is best.
Ages 4-8: When they outgrow the harness-style seat, kids under 4’9” and 80 lbs should ride in a front-facing booster seat in the back seat.
Ages 8-13: Kids should still ride in the back seat whenever possible to avoid airbag injuries.
Did you know?
• You should never allow your child to ride with the seatbelt behind his back or under his arm.
• Car seats expire after 6 years because the plastic breaks down and no longer absorbs the force of a car crash.
• Seat belts are designed to fit an adult male who is 5’10” and weighs 165 lbs.
• About 1.5 million American children are in motor vehicle crashes annually. About 400 American kids (between ages 4 and 8) die each year in motor vehicle crashes and more than 70,000 are injured. Over 7,000 of these injuries are “incapacitating, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia study.”
• Children ages 4 to 8 who use booster seats are 59% less likely to be injured in a car crash than if they used a seatbelt alone.
~Northwest Medstar Member News, Issue 1 – 2010
Used with permission
Contributed by Merrilyn Reeves, LM, CPM