In January we went to Arizona to visit family and to thaw out a little after being buried in snow. While we were there my three year old son, Cason, was traveling with my brother-in-law and his wife when they were struck from the side by another car in a busy intersection. As you can imagine that was a difficult and scary time for all of us, especially my son. Luckily no one had life threatening injuries, although everyone involved was experiencing mild to severe pain for several weeks. I was not in the vehicle with Cason but thank heavens I checked that his car seat was latched properly and that his chest clip was in the correct place before he left. He was easily the least injured in the car and I contribute that largely to the fact that he was properly restrained. My sister-in-law who was in the seat in front of him was the most injured in the car even though they were both on the farthest side of the impact, so I think that again shows his car seat did its job.
Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause for unintentional death of children? Safe Kids Worldwide states that “Of the 451 children ages 8 and under who died in MVCs [motor vehicle crashes] in 2014, 116 (26 percent) were not restrained by an age-appropriate device such as infant car seat, booster seat or seat belt.” Then you can find from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that “of the  children ages 12 years and younger who died in a crash in 2015 (for which restraint use was known), 35% were not buckled up.” That’s 232 precious children who lost their lives because they weren’t even buckled! So please, make sure that you buckle your children. You love them and want to keep them safe, I get that, so here is a list of ways you can, other than making sure they are buckled in the first place.
Choose the Right Seat based on Height and Weight
It is recommended that children be rear facing as long as possible, up to age two. Each seat has specific height and weight requirements for rear facing and forward facing so you will need to know what these are for the one you have. After your child has reached the maximum height and weight requirement for their forward facing seat they should be in a booster seat until they are 100 lbs and 4 feet 9 inches tall.
Make Sure the Buckles are Secured Properly
There are so many times I see pictures of children on the internet and the chest clip for their car seat is way too low. It’s called a chest clip because it should be high on the chest about armpit level. If that clip is too low and a collision occurs the child’s shoulders could come out of the straps and there can be severe damage to their internal organs as their belly slams against the clip. If the clip is up high on the ribs and sternum the force can be distributed through the rib cage. Also, make sure that the harness is tight enough; you should be able to just slide your fingers under the buckle, if there is much more that this it causes a lag. If you have ever been pulled on an inner tube behind a boat or snowmobile think of that jerk you get when the rope is loose and the driver takes off too quickly.
Know When to Replace Car Seats
After my son was involved in the car crash we had the insurance replace the car seat, which is a recommendation by all car seat manufactures. There were no visible signs of damage but there may be weak spots in the frame that aren’t noticeable but would ultimately lead to injury if involved in a collision again. Also, make sure you are aware of the expiration date for your child’s car seat, they last for several years so it shouldn’t affect the use for one child but if you are passing it down to a sibling or you are buying a used one that’s when you need to double check. Safety standards are always changing and that is part of the reason behind the expiration but also the plastic in the car seat will weaken overtime from use and age.
Read through the Owner’s Manual
The owner’s manual will tell you way more than you could imagine but it’s important to get the basics from it, especially when you are installing the car seat for the first time. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 3 of 4 car seats are installed improperly. That is a pretty scary statistic. Knowing that your child will be safe in a collision is worth the time it takes to read through the manual.
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