Buckle Up Like NASCAR

Buckle Up Like NASCAR

Using a car seat correctly

While watching your favorite NASCAR driver zoom around the track, have you ever noticed their harness? It’s a variation of the five-point harness, and a similar structure is used in today’s car seats! NASCAR racers demand only the safest seat belt technology, and so does your child. But navigating car seat and booster seat options can be confusing for anyone, so here are some tips to help parents of babies, toddlers, and school-age children make the best choices.

The Early Years

Since 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been advising parents to keep their infants and toddlers in rear-facing car seats until they are two years old.

Young children placed in front-facing car seats are at a higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries in a car crash. Why? Because they have larger heads compared to the size of their bodies. Dr. Dennis Durbin of the AAP explains that “a rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck, and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body.”

Statistics back this information, as well. One study found that children younger than two years old were “75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they [were] riding rear-facing.”

Growing Up

Unfortunately, car crashes are still the leading cause of death for children over three years old. Making sure that you’re using the right car seat at the right time for your child can help save your child’s life. After two years old, your child can probably transition from a rear-facing car seat to a front-facing car seat, which still utilizes the five-point harness. (When we say “two years old,” we mean it more as a guideline than a concrete rule. Most children are generally large enough to make the transition around two years old, but pay attention to the height and weight maximum for your rear-facing car seat to make sure.)

The next step for your child will be moving from a a front-facing car seat to a booster seat, but don’t rush the transition. It’s important to remember that each time your child outgrows one type of restraint and advances to the next, they are not as protected in the event of a crash. Again, read the owner’s manuals for exact height and weight limits for each seat, and keep your child in each seat for as long as possible!

The weight maximum for most front-facing car seats is between 40 and 65 pounds. Once your child exceeds this limit (or the height limit), your child is ready for a booster seat. Children should use the booster until they are 4’9” tall (and we’ve found that children generally reach this height sometime between eight and twelve years old). Remember, seat belts are designed for an average male adult weighing around 160 pounds. We also suggest that children ride in the backseat until they are thirteen years old.

Installing the Car Seats

Since car seats are only effective if they’re installed correctly, proper installation is INCREDIBLY important. Luckily, there are many places in the community to get your car seat checked for proper installation. Car seat inspection stations are often set up at hospitals, fire stations, and police stations in your area and should have certified child safety technicians present. Their job is not to ensure your car seat is installed correctly, but to train you to install your car seat properly and give you confidence in removing and reinstalling it yourself.

Here are some installation tips to remember:

  • Car seats can be secured via the LATCH system (which uses anchors found at the top and sides of your car’s normal seat) or seat belts.
  • Harness straps in rear-facing car seats should go across the child’s shoulders or below, never above. Straps placed above shoulder level could result in injury or death for your child if the vehicle is in an accident.
  • Harness straps in front-facing car seats should stretch flat across or above your child’s shoulders.
  • Properly secured car seats shouldn’t be able to move more than one inch to the front or side when pulled on.
  • Rear-facing car seats should be at the proper recline angle. Most car seats come with indicators or a guide to help you find the correct position.
  • Never put a child’s car seat in the front seat. The passenger airbag (if your vehicle has one) could cause injury or death to your child when it inflates during a crash.

For more information on the web, check out healthychildren.org and the NHTSA. If you have questions or would like to discuss any concerns you have regarding car seat safety, you can schedule an appointment with Dr. Kathryn Mandal by calling 817-617-8600 or scheduling online at continuumtx.com.