Car Seat Safety
By: Pam Sere, Baptist Women’s Hospital
Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of accidental of death for babies and children. One out of three children killed in crashes are not restrained properly in a child safety seat. The majority of accidents occur close to home and it is very important that every time your baby is in the car they be restrained in their car seat. Being restrained in a properly installed car seat will reduce the risk of injury in a crash by 54%. Statistically 45% of African American children and 46% of Hispanic children that are killed in crashes were unbuckled.
Over 80% of all car seats are installed incorrectly. In the state of Tennessee for 2014 only 18% of the seats that were inspected were installed correctly. Listed below are things you can do to assure “that every ride is a safe ride” for your baby.
• Purchase a car seat prior to delivery and have it checked to make sure it is installed properly – at Baptist Women’s Hospital we provide education and safety checks for parents before they take their babies home.
• It is best not to borrow or purchase a “second-hand” seat. It is hard to know if a seat has been in a previous crash which can cause “unseen damage” and an older seat might be past its expiration date (these are posted on the seat) – different seats have different expirations usually 5-7 years depending on the model and type.
• Make sure you get education on how to use your seat correctly
• Infant seats should be “rear-facing” in the back seat wherever it fits best in that seat
• Leave your infant in that “rear-facing” position up to 2 years old or the weight limit listed on the seat- don’t be too eager to turn it around
• Never put a seat in the path of an airbag
• In colder months do not dress your baby in heavy jackets or a snowsuit then buckle them in- buckle them in the seat, tighten the harness then cover with blankets so the harness will fit as snuggly as it needs to in order to restrain the baby properly
• As your child grows be sure and “move the harness straps” up to the next higher position and make sure the front harness clips are in the right place on the baby’s chest at armpit level – the harness should be snug
• Make sure the seat is always properly “latched or belted in -” if you use the “latch” (available in all car models 2003 and above) you do not need to use the seatbelt- if you take the seat out of the car and move it to another vehicle make sure it is secure and tight when you install it- there should not be more than an inch of “movement” when the seat is installed correctly– “use your knee” to hold the seat down securely and then adjust the belt on the seat to latch or belt it in as snug as you can get it
• Be sure to fill out the registration card that comes with your seat and return it to the manufacturer – that way they will be able to “notify” you if there is ever a recall on the seat
If you are unable to afford a car seat and you are participating in WIC or are on Tenn-Care there is an option through the Shelby County Health Department where you can purchase a new seat for $10 cash.
When you go to purchase a seat take the vehicle you will be driving the most- some retailers such as Toys R US and Babies R Us will allow you to take a model seat out to your car so you can see if it is a “good fit” and easy to install- the make and model of different cars may accommodate some seats more easily than others.
If you obtain your seat through the Health Department they will provide education on installing and using your seat. At Baptist Women’s we provide education and car seat checks for our patients. You can also contact area police departments to inquire if they have available staff who can do car seat checks if you are delivering at a hospital where this service is not provided . Most area police departments do have trained staff but you have to call to inquire about hours and when staff is available to provide that service.
Two links with great information that you need to know:
http://tn.gov/safety/article/newCRD Tennessee car seat laws
http://www.safercar.gov/parents/CarSeats/How-To-Install-Car-Seats.htm – videos on installing & using your car seat