New safety guidelines keep kids in car seats longer
According to CMC-Union studies, Union County adults misuse or install 96 percent of all children’s car seats incorrectly. This is slightly higher than the national average of misuse, which floats at about 88 percent according to CMC-Union Safe Kids Coordinator Jennifer Cooke.
Part of the blame, to be sure, lies with state laws and recommendations that change so frequently it is hard for parents to keep up. Nevertheless, Cooke urges parents to “stay up to date when it comes to kids.” Cooke recommends starting with www.buckleupNC.org, a resource website dedicated to child safety seat and seat belt information.
The American Academy of Pediatrics newest car seat guidelines, released in March 2011, are aimed at better protecting children, and require children to stay in car restraints longer than perhaps their older siblings.
The New Recommendations
According to Cooke, the AAP recommends infants remain rear facing unti the age of two or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their car seat. This is much easier to accomplish, Cooke explains, with a convertible car seat that eventually goes forward facing than with an infant carrier designed for rear facing only.
Children should not face forward in a seat with a harness restraint until they reach anywhere between 55 and 70 lbs. depending on the seat’s guidelines. To ensure your child is safe and to eliminate confusion, Cooke advises parents to read manufacturer instructions for each particular seat.
Once a child has reached the top weight and height limits of their forward-facing harness seat, they must graduate to a booster and remain there until they have reached the age of 8 or a weight of 80 lbs. A child older than 8 and who weighs more than 80 lbs. must still remain in a booster if without it the car’s seatbelt does not fit appropriately. “A seatbelt can’t be under their arm, hitting their neck or behind their back,” Cooke says. Children must also remain buckled in the back seat until the age of 13, which on average works out to be when the child reaches a height of 4 feet 9 inches.
“Seat belts are made for adult men,” Cooke explains. “Even women have trouble with them.” The Safe Kids program is also always willing to help, and Cooke makes herself available to provide education about the latest pediatric car safety recommendations, and to show parents “little tricks” to ensure the seat belt hits the child in the right place just below the neck.
The Car Seat
While the recommendations are clear, the law is anything but. According to Cooke, NC state law says a child “must be appropriately restrained.” Fortunately for parents, although the definition of “appropriate” is ambiguous and confusing, buying a car seat doesn’t have to be.
Cooke urges parents to buy car seats new. “There is no way to know if a used car seat has been in accident,” she says, ”and taking a chance with your kid in the car is not the way to test it out.” Every seat on the market, whether it costs $25 or $325, has met the same safety standards,” she says.
“The only thing a parent needs to worry about is a car seat’s safety,” Cooke says. “The only difference between seats with different prices is the bells and whistles and its brand name.” Safe Kids sells discounted new convertible car seats to residents. For more information about car seats or safety guidelines, call Cooke at 704-225-9221 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.