As we approach Child Passenger Safety Week, here are some important things to think about and remember:
Even though it is not required, REAR FACING UNTIL TWO YEARS of age is safest. Children who are 12 to 23 months old are FIVE TIMES SAFER if they face the rear rather than the front. Some folks worry about injury to the legs, but lower extremity injuries are rare in the rear-facing position which offers much better protection against spinal injuries. Many car seats available today have higher height and weight limits allowing you to use them longer than older seats. Every seat has a height and weight limit, and these limits can vary depending on whether the seat faces the rear or the front.
Children younger than 13 years old should ride in the back.
Car seats have an expiration date, usually 6 years after the manufacture date. Please do not use a seat that is more than 10 years old.
Car seats need to be replaced after an accident. Some insurance companies will cover the replacement cost. It may be possible to reuse a car seat after a minor crash. See http://nhtsa.gov/people/injury/childps/childrestraints/reuse/restraintreuse.htm for guidelines.
Avoid secondhand seats unless you are sure it has not been in an accident and it has not been recalled. It should have a sticker stating the manufacturer, the manufacture date, and the model number. You will need an owner’s manual which is often available online.
Car sear injuries can happen OUTSIDE of the car, especially in children younger than 4 months of age. Suffocation or head injury due to falls can occur. If the seat must be elevated (like on a counter), then the child should be strapped in, the surface should be firm, the seat should be far from the edge of the surface, and there should be constant supervision.
If you plan on using a car seat on a plane, it should be FAA certified. Car seats are recommended on flights for children up to 4 years of age. Install them just as you would in a car with a lap-only belt. The car seat should be put in a window seat.
For an overall reference, check out http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx.
Be safe and enjoy the ride!