Even though every parent knows that keeping babies properly secured in a car seat is important, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that three out of every four car seats are installed incorrectly. I know that I often wondered if I had properly secured my boys’ seats in the car and also questioned when I should move them to seats meant for older or larger children. I only wish that I’d had Kelley Adams-Campos to advise me back then! Recently the top Ford child passenger safety expert came to Regina to share her knowledge of car seat safety with teen mothers who attend the Shirley Schneider Support Centre and even having raised two kids, I learned a lot. Here are four great tips from Kelley:
Keep Kids Facing Back
Children should remain in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible, says Kelley, since it minimizes the chance of neck and head injury in the event of a collision. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to find the maximum height and weight recommended for having a seat facing the rear and don’t turn it forward before a child reaches it. Ideally, Kelley says, children should be rear facing until at least two years of age. If you’re concerned about your baby being able to see you, remember that he’s never known any other way of driving and so won’t miss a thing. And if you’re worried about checking on your little one while driving, stop. Distracting yourself from the road to entertain your child just puts both of you in greater danger of an accident.
Forget the Aftermarket Accessories
Parents sometimes like to attach toys to the car seat or put a mirror on the back of the seat to keep an eye on their baby while driving. It’s incredibly common but Kelley says it’s far from safe. Because aftermarket accessories aren’t subjected to the same rigorous safety tests as the car seats themselves, any claims can be made about their safety without hard evidence to back up the claims. In the case of a collision, the chance of toys and other accessories becoming projectiles is just too great. Until you’re in a crash, says Kelley, you can’t imagine how strong the force of impact can be, turning even the most securely attached toy into a danger.
Keep the Car Seat in the Middle
The back centre seat is the safest place for a car seat, so keep your child there as long as possible. In the event of a collision from the side, the chances of a child being injured are minimized by the seat’s position in the vehicle. If the car seat can’t fit into that space for whatever reason, then keep it in the rear passenger’s position. This way, when you park, the baby will always be next to the curb instead of next to the street.
Maturity Matters when Moving to a Booster
Deciding to switch your child to a booster seat that uses the regular seat belt is something that’s partially determined by the child’s height and weight, but it should also be decided based on maturity, says Kelley. Some car seats have five-point harnesses that can by worn by children six years of age and older. While converting to a booster with a lap shoulder belt might seem to make sense at that age, if a child doesn’t have the maturity to sit properly with the belt in place then he’s risking injury. Ford has come up with a new and innovative product to help protect children, the Ford Inflatable Seatbelt, that helps cushion a child in the event of a crash. But if the child isn’t wearing the seatbelt properly, then the newest safety innovations don’t make much of a difference. As with rear-facing car seats, staying secured in a five-point harness for as long as possible is the safest choice for children.
I was so impressed by the wealth of information Kelley Adams-Campos had to share and I’m sure that there are a lot more safely secured children in Saskatchewan since she visited. When it comes to ensuring that our babies are as safe as possible while driving, knowledge is definitely power!