With summer here and school out, more and more of us are on the move in cars with kids in tow.
As our little ones travel back-and-forth between daycare, camp, the beach and play dates, they'll also find themselves riding in other people's cars. According to the Center for Disease Control, 150 children between ages 0 and 19 are being treated in emergency departments across the country for injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes every hour. With this in mind, it's important that we do everything we can to keep our children safe from road traffic injuries. Thankfully, there are small steps we can take which have a huge impact in securing that our children will get from place to place safely this summer. One of most obvious places to start is with our childrens’ car seats.
We all know it's important that we make sure our children are properly buckled up in a car seat. However, it can be a challenge to install a car seat correctly and even more of a struggle sometimes to wrangle wiggly kids into their restraints. As a result, friends or caregivers who are tasked with transportation this summer but who aren't as familiar with your car seat, might have a hard time tucking your children in safely.
One CDC study found that, in one year, more than 618,000 children ages 0 to 12 rode in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat or booster seat, or a seatbelt at least some of the time.
When facing a defiant five-year-old and a mass of tangled seatbelt parts, it's easy to think, "I'm just driving to the end of the road". However, the consequences of this seemingly small lapse in car safety restraint can be devastating.
Of the children ages twelve and under who died in a car crash in 2015 (for which restraint used was known), 35% were not buckled up.
Three Steps to Safety
So what do we do?
It's important to find the right car seat not, only based upon your child's age, height and weight, but also based upon the make and model of your car.
Follow this link: https://www.safercar.gov/cpsApp/crs/index.htm which offers a car seat finder tool that can help you compare car seat makes and models, and another tool to evaluate potential car seat's ease-of-use ratings.
After you've chosen the right car seat, the next step is to install your selected car seat correctly.
Installing a car seat properly is not easy. In fact, nearly one in two of us is installing our car seats incorrectly, and we probably don't know it.
A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/#/) from May 2015 estimated that overall, car seat and booster seat misuse was 46%. This didn't include every divergence from a perfect installation, but it means nearly one in two of us is likely mis-using the car seat we are relying upon to keep our children safe. The statistics are even more concerning when mis-use is considered by car seat or booster seat type. Estimated mis-use rates were 61% for forward facing car seats and 49% for rear facing infant car seats. Booster seats appeared to be the most likely to be properly installed.
We should all be worried about this, but there's no need to despair. There's help for this from your car seat manufacturer and many local police stations also offer car seat installation checks to help you make sure your child seat is properly installed.
Even easier, you can go to safecar.gov where you can select your car seat installation instructions by type; rear facing, forward facing or booster seats and get step-by-step tips for proper installation. With the help of this site, you can double check to be sure you're using your child's car seat properly. It is also a great resource for family members and caregivers who might be driving your child this summer.
Consider printing out the directions for installing your child's car seat, and then give those instructions to anyone who might be taking your child in their car. You might even attach the directions right onto the car seat, assuming you can do that safely without interfering with the mechanisms. Don't be shy, remember, nearly one in two of us is doing this wrong.
Last but not least, it's a good idea to keep on top of recall notifications for your children’s car seats. You can do this by registering your car seat and by signing up to receive email alerts about car seat and booster seat recalls from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).