Car Seat Safety

Car seats are vital to a child’s health & safety but many of us are installing the seats incorrectly. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about your child’s car seat or booster can be found here. 

I do not have any children (unless you count my dog, Riggs, and I do but I don’t want to cause confusion here) so for the sake of this article, I will define my “parenthood” status solely by the raising a human being. So no, I am not a mother. I do, however, have seven nieces and nephews. They are the loves of my life and I feel pretty darn lucky to be their aunt. 

On the occasions that I take one or two or three of them out to do something special, I keep my fingers crossed that I can borrow one of my sibling’s minivans. *And no, I have never taken all seven out at once because that would be a suicide mission. I hope for the Sienna in part because I LOVE it (I can discuss this at a later occasion on the blog, but real talk—the Sienna is one of the best vehicles in Toyota’s lineup) and also in part because I’m lazy and transferring car seats and/or boosters seats from one vehicle to another is a PAIN in the butt. The seats are large, awkward and so terribly difficult to install. I can remember one particularly frustrating experience in which I attempted to install my nephew’s car seat in my Corolla—the fiasco ended with me in tears after failing to find the metal anchor in the back seat cushion. Once it was pointed out to me, I was embarrassed that I couldn’t see it all along!

While the frustration of the installation might drive us all crazy, studies show over and over again that it is worth the fuss when it comes to the safety of a child. Unfortunately, many of us are installing or using our baby/booster car seats incorrectly, rendering their safety benefits practically useless. According to the CDC, ”Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death to children in the United States.” These are preventable deaths. From the CDC

Car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants (aged <1 year) by 71%; and to toddlers (aged 1–4 years) by 54% in passenger vehicles. Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children aged 4–8 years when compared with seat belt use alone. For older children and adults, seat belt use reduces the risk for death and serious injury by approximately half.

These statistics are staggering.

To ensure we’re all restraining our children and loved ones properly, I’m going to break this down for you into three questions:

  1. Which seat is right for my child/loved one?
  2. Am I following the directions per the manufacturer’s instructions? And is the seat correctly installed?
  3. Am I setting the right example?

Which seat is right for my child/loved one?

The NHTSA has a simple tool to help you decide which seat is best for your child at this moment in time. By entering their DOB, height, and weight, the tool will show you a wide selection of seats and boosters that will work for them. You can also refer to this handy graphic (below) courtesy of the CDC.

Is the seat installed properly?

Here’s the tricky part… in my research for this post, many folks suggest sucking up your pride and going straight to the expert, especially if it’s your first time installing the seat. Advocate Children’s Hospital (Oak Lawn campus) hosts FREE safety checks every Tuesday from 9am-2pm courtesy of their certified car seat technician. You can make an appointment by calling 708-684-7019. You can also visit your local fire station or police station where a trained professional can help you install your seat. But I suggest you call ahead of time to ensure a certified car seat technician is present. Once your seat is professionally installed, make sure the chest clips are in the correct position every time your child is in their seat. 

Am I setting a good example?

Eventually your child/loved one will grow out of that car seat into their booster seat and before you know it, they’ll be asking to borrow your car for the night. It’s important that we practice good habits in front of them today to ensure they’re seeing how a responsible adult acts behind the wheel of a car. Please use that seatbelt and be cognizant of your distractions, especially your cell phone—ditch the texting and driving!!!

Further resources: Mayo Clinic’s Car Seat Safety

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