Are you using this life-saving device properly?
Car seats and booster seats save lives – when they are used properly.
“Purchasing a car seat is only the first step. Making sure it’s the right seat, using it safely and installing it correctly are really crucial in order for the seat to protect children in a crash,” says Berenice Arellano, an Advocate nurse and infant safety coordinator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.
Here are a few tips from Arellano on how parents can ensure their children are safe in the car:
- Insist on seatbelts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seatbelts can reduce the risk of death or serious injury in a crash by nearly half. No matter how short the trip or how much kids complain about wearing them, never pull away until everyone is buckled correctly – including you, as this sets an example for your children.
- Know when to switch seats. When your child surpasses the size or weight limits for a car seat, it’s time to graduate to the next size up (click here for general guidelines from the CDC.)
- Keep children in the back seat. Placing young children in any seat with an active airbag can lead to injury or death if it deploys, especially if they’re in a rear-facing car seat. The safest place in a car is the middle of the back seat. Children should not move up front until they are at least 13 years old.
- Replace seats after a major crash. A moderate to severe crash can do damage to a car seat that is not always visible to the naked eye. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, you should only keep the same seat after a crash if all of the following are true:
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
- The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged.
- None of the passengers in the vehicle sustained any injuries in the crash.
- If the vehicle has air bags, the air bags did not deploy during the crash; and
- There is no visible damage to the car seat.
- Get your seats checked periodically. Many locations offer free car seat inspections, especially during National Child Passenger Safety Week in September. Certified technicians will check that all seats are installed and being used properly. Find one near you at https://www.safekids.org/events/field_type/check-event.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.