Imagine you are new parents and involved in a traffic accident. Are you confident that your infant's car seat is safely installed and that your child is in the proper type of car seat for their size and age? For families throughout the community, these are real questions that need to be asked.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that while 96 percent of parents and caregivers believe their child safety seats are installed correctly, research has shown that 7 out of 10 children are improperly restrained. Most parents spend a lot of time picking out the pattern of the car seat to put on their baby registry, so why not take the time to make sure it's safe for your child?
Programs like car seat safety checks are a community resource that many parents aren't aware of, and help ensure that seats are safely and properly installed.
It’s important to make sure that you select your child’s car seat based on their size and age.
Birth - 12 Months: Rear-Facing Car Seat
Keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the top height and weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.
1-3 Years: Forward-Facing Car Seat w/ Harness & Tether
Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. Louisiana law requires a child must ride in a rear facing car seat until they are 1 year old AND weigh 20 pounds. However, the NHTSA (National Highway and Safety Administration) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends rear-facing until 2 years of age to reduce the risk of spinal cord injuries.
4-7 Years: Booster Seat
Continue to keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until they have reached the maximum height based on the manufacturer’s guidelines. Once they outgrow the forward facing seat, it is time to move to a Booster Seat.
8-12 Years: Back Seat with Seatbelt
Keep your child in a booster seat until they are big enough to properly fit in a seat belt. The seat belt must fit snug across your child’s shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. It is important that your children still ride in the back seat because it is safer there.
Most people think it's easy to simply click a car seat into a car. However, many technicians agree that most if not all car seats are installed incorrectly by consumers. When preparing for your baby, there are so many decisions to make and so many things to think about. Once you purchase the correct seat for your child, bring your seat in for a safety check. Check with your local healthcare provider to see if they offer car seat safety checks.
Ochsner Medical Center- West Bank has two CPST’s (Child Passenger Safety Technicians) and offers free car seat safety checks by appointment only. If you would like more information, please call 504-391-5529 or visit www.ochner.org/services.
Authors: Aimee Vaughn, RN NICU and Tina Brou, RN