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Car Seat Safety: What to Consider

St. David's HealthCare October 24, 2014

Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death among children ages three to 14; however, many of these deaths can be prevented through proper use of child safety seats. The use of child safety seats is extremely effective and reduces the risk of death by as much as 71 percent, yet nearly 73 percent of child restraints are not installed or used correctly. Installing car seats can be challenging, and staff at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center’s Level II Trauma Center are working to help.

All vehicle occupants need to be properly restrained by seat belts or child safety seats to prevent injury in case of a sudden stop, sharp turn or crash. Seat belts and car seats confine the strongest parts of the body, spread crash forces over a wide area, help the body slow down, and protect the brain and spinal cord. In Texas, the law requires that all children be restrained in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the seat system manufacturer until they are eight years old and preferably taller than 4 feet 9 inches.

Although all child seats must meet national standards, they are not all standardized in design. There are three basic types of child seats: rear-facing, forward-facing and booster seats. These three styles are meant to accommodate the various stages of a child’s life—from infancy through the teenage years. To determine which type of child seat is best for your child, use the following guidelines.

Age GroupType of Car SeatGeneral Guidelines
Infants and Toddlers Rear-facing only and rear-facing convertible All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least two years old, or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer.
Toddlers and Preschoolers Convertible and forward-facing with harnesses Any child who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for a convertible car seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer.
Elementary-aged Children Booster Children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly. Typically, this is when a child has reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and is between eight and 12 years of age.
Children ages 12+ Seat belt When children are old enough and tall enough to use the vehicle seat belt, they should always use a lap and shoulder seat belt and should sit in the rear seats of a vehicle for optimal protection.

Before you install your car seat, be sure to read both the car seat instruction manual and your vehicle’s owner manual. As a rule of thumb, always remember to remove loose objects from the car seat and interior of car, particularly from the rear sections, and place them in the car pockets or enclosed car storage spaces.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seven out of 10 children are improperly restrained, putting them at risk for injury or death in a crash. Heed caution and consult an expert if you are concerned that your child safety seat may be improperly installed.

St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center and St. David’s South Austin Medical Center host monthly child car seat inspections and/or classes. For additional information, contact St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center at (512) 341-6612 or St. David’s South Austin Medical Center at (512) 447-2211.

Sources: healthychildren.org, safekids.org, seatcheck.org

KTBC-TV recently featured a member from St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center’s Level II Trauma Center to discuss car safety instructions. View the story here.

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