If you offend easily, this is not the blog for you...
I've made a very good living off of other people's bad choices. And frankly, in this day and age, there's no excuse for ignorance in the arena of car safety. I've seen statistics anywhere from 73-98% of car seats are used incorrectly. So here's the down and dirty on keeping your kiddos safe in the car.
Law mandates that a child less than 8 years old and less than 4 feet, 9 inches must be in a car seat device at all times and restrained according to the seat's instruction. Right off the bat that means if you have a 1 year old, they must be in a 5 point harness and rear facing. Period. It's law. Along with that, if you have an older child that no longer sits in a safety seat, they have to be in a seat belt at all times including the shoulder strap. So if you're taking a long road trip and Jr wants to lay down to sleep, he has to stay in the shoulder strap. Period. It's law.
Why is the "law" important? Well if you're asking that question, we have several other things to talk about. But think of it this way....the law is always several years behind expert recommendations. So if it's written in law that something is necessary.....it's really, really necessary.
So what do the experts recommend? A big push that we are trying to make is to keep your baby rear facing until at least 2 years of age or longer.
Longer?!? But my kid can't see!! His legs are bent!! He doesn't look comfortable!!!
So what. He doesn't know any different. Comfortable? You know what's uncomfortable?? A traumatic brain injury. Skull fractures. Having your face busted into a hundred tiny pieces. That's uncomfortable. And you know what? It happens all the time. Often. Frequently. Don't test me on this. And honestly, have you not seen how kids sit on the floor? If he has to sit with his legs crossed in his seat, he'll live. Thankfully. (And on that note, children are not to ride in the front seat until their 13th birthday.)
And guess what? Other countries with lower death and injury rates keep their kids rear facing well through the toddler years. Think 4 years old. And this is normal to them. Read about it here and watch the video below.
INSTALLATION (of seat and child)
Some installation tips and videos can be found here on the Safe Kids website.
There was once a time when people said you can go to the Firestation down the street to get your seat checked, but that's no longer a great idea. Firemen are not car seat technicians. They can help you read the directions, but that's about it. If you're in the Fort Worth area you can call Safe Kids Tarrant County at 682-885-2634 to schedule a FREE car seat check. Other car seat techs can be found by visiting the Safe Kids website of your area.
But how do you know if your child is in the seat correctly?? Here's a good list to review! Unfortunately this list doesn't discuss proper clip placement. The chest clip should be at the nipples/armpit area. Not lower - this can cause significant abdominal organ injuries.
The tightness is also important. Children do in fact fly out of seats and through windows when their seats are installed correctly but aren't tight enough in the straps. Do the pinch test.
The safest place for them to sit is in the back middle seat. If you don't have a back middle seat, the next safest place is directly behind the driver. (I can already hear the cries of the ignorant mothers...."But I can't see him! What if I need to get to him?" Again I say this: So what. You can't see him. You really need to get to him? Then pull over. You shouldn't be reaching back there anyway to get to a rear facing child. Pull over.)
If you have multiple child passenger safety seats that need to be installed, the infant seat should go in the middle. It is not side impact reinforced. Larger convertible seats are, so they are safer to go behind the driver or passenger. And they should be rear facing. Still.
A NOTE ON FLYING OBJECTS (CHILDREN INCLUDED):
If you don't want your children to be flying objects in a crash, don't put them in a big fluffy coat in their car seat or booster. I promise they won't freeze to death. Just take their coat off before getting in the seat and give them a blanket (as long as they aren't newborns) and they'll be fine. I can't make that same promise if you put them in a fat coat. When a crash happens, the coat compresses and they can fly out of their seats. At high speeds. Through windows. Please hear me: soft skin does not fair well against concrete and asphalt. Nor do growing brains.
Other flying objects include coffee mugs, cds, books, strollers, or anything else you don't have tied down. You think this is over reacting? Let me tell you the story about a kid I saw who had a wreck with a box of ceramics in the back.
And next time, put your paint in the trunk.
Here's the thing guys. This is simple. It's not difficult. We aren't suggesting you build a fort to place around them anytime they leave the house. This takes no extra time and very little if any extra effort. I would love to place pictures of what my forward facing patients look like, but apparently that's illegal. It's a shame. I think that's the only way some of you would see the risk you take. But please, let my professional knowledge and experience be enough for you to do the wise thing and follow these recommendations.