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Parents Need to Take to Protect Their Kids
(ARA) - Before you hit the open road to spend the holidays with friends and family -- there are a few things you need to take care of. You need to make sure your engine is running smoothly, your tires are properly inflated, and if you’ll be traveling with children, you have the equipment to keep them properly restrained.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, traffic crashes are the number one killer of young children. Last year, 2,542 children ages 15 and younger died in car crashes; another 294,000 were injured. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show nearly half of the deaths and injuries occurred because the children were not properly restrained.
“One of the biggest problems we’re seeing is that parents graduate their children from car seats to seatbelts when they should really be in booster seats,” says Elly Martin, who is a spokesperson for the NHTSA. “We’ve also seen a number of cases where children who are in car seats are not very well secured.”
Every state requires that infants and children ride buckled up. However, state laws do not always require the safest way to transport a child. So what is the safest way? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants always ride in the back seat -- in car seats that can only be used rear-facing until they are at least a year old and 20 pounds.
“One of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen parents make is switching their child to a forward facing car seat too soon. Just because your baby has turned a year old or is over 20 pounds doesn’t mean they’re ready. They must achieve both milestones before the switch is made,” says Jeff Beyer, senior vice president and chief communications officer of Farmers Insurance.
There are a number of car seats on the market that are considered safe for babies at the in-between stage. So-called convertible car seats can be used as rear facing until the child is up to 35 pounds, or forward facing until they are around 40 pounds. They typically come with three different types of restraints: 5-point harness, T-shield, and overhead shield.
“When your child reaches the top weight or height allowed for his or her car seat, that doesn’t mean it’s time for them to switch over to a regular seatbelt. At 3 or 4 years of age, most children are still too short to be safely secured by a seatbelt. If they are not at least 4 feet 9 inches tall, they need the added protection of a booster seat,” says Beyer.
* Making Sure Seats are Safely Secured
Pediatricians have done a good job spreading the word about the Academy’s recommendations, and the statistics show parents are listening. The number of fatal accidents involving children dropped from 2,603 in 2001 to 2,542 in 2002.
“We are very heartened by improvements in child safety seat use by Americans; however, there is still room for improvement if every child is to travel safely on our roadways,” says Martin.
“Despite their best intentions, parents don’t always install the seats properly,” says Beyer. In the “New Parents” section of its Web site, Farmers Insurance has numerous tips regarding the proper installation of car seats.
* Must be used in a rear facing position until child is at least 12 months old and weighs at least 20 pounds
* Never place this type of seat in front of an airbag. The preferred location is in the back seat in the middle of the car.
* Never hold your baby in your lap when the vehicle is in motion.
* Your child’s head should be at least 1 inch below the top of the child seat.
* Rear facing infant seats reduce the risk of fatal injury in a car crash by 71 percent.
* Should be in the forward facing position for children between 20 and 40 pounds and over 1 year of age.
* When using the seat in a forward-facing position, always use the highest of the three sets of slots provided with this seat for the harness.
* If using this seat in a rear-facing position, the harness should come out of the center or lowest slots.
* The harness should fit snugly with room for no more than one finger between the harness and your child’s collarbone.
* Forward-facing safety seats for toddlers reduce the fatality risk by 54 percent.
* Use forward facing only.
* High-back booster with built-in harness: for children between 30 and 40 pounds. Harness should be replaced by adult lap and shoulder belt when child reaches 40 pounds.
* Belt positioning booster seats: for children between 40 and 80 pounds and up to four feet nine inches. Never use with only the lap belt -- use with shoulder and adult lap belt together. Shoulder belt should cross chest, never over stomach. Make sure belt fastens without extra slack.
Another common mistake parents can make is not properly securing the seat itself in their vehicle. It is estimated that 8 out of 10 seats on American roads are improperly installed. Seat Check, a national organization that works with Toys R Us, the NHTSA, and several other sponsors holds regular free inspection clinics that can give parents piece of mind.
To find a child seat inspection station in your area, log onto www.seatcheck.org, or call (866) SEATCHECK. You can find car seat installation and other child safety advice on the Farmers Insurance Web site: www.farmers.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content