The growing awareness of safe driving and state safety laws have alerted the general public and parents to the importance of using car seats for their small children whenever and wherever they are driving. Most states require the use of car seats for children under the age of 4 and weighing fewer than 40 pounds. However, these safety rules aimed at protecting children may cause serious neck and spinal injuries and can even be deadly if the child car seats are used incorrectly.
Consider the following guidelines and safety tips to ensure proper car seat safety:
• Make sure the child safety seat is appropriate for the age and size of the child. A newborn infant requires a different seat than a 3-year-old toddler.
• The car seat should always be rear facing as the forces and impact of a crash will be spread more evenly along the back and shoulders, providing more protection for the neck.
• Car seats should always be placed in the back seat of the car. This is especially important in cars equipped with air bags. If an air bag becomes deployed, the force could seriously injure or kill a child or infant placed in the front seat.
• Make sure the car seat is properly secured to the seat of the vehicle and is placed at a 45-degree angle to support the head of the infant or child.
• The lap harness should be fastened low, as close to the hips as possible; the harness should never be fastened around the waist.
• Make certain the shoulder harness is fastened securely and the straps lay flat against the body. Twisted straps can cause additional injury and might prevent the seat from working properly.
• Use a retention clip (if provided by the manufacturer) when securing a child safety seat with the shoulder harness. The retention or shoulder harness clip is an added safety feature and must be fastened close to the armpit of the infant or child.
• Borrowing or purchasing a used car seat can be Fredgerous; there is the possibility of unknown or undetected damage. Car seats that have been in a serious accident should never be used again.
• Be sure the seat meets federal motor vehicle safety seat standards. Consult the owner's manual or contact the manufacturer for this information. All car seats should have an owner's manual and instruction booklet.
• Be sure the clip between the legs of the child is fastened snugly.