With grandchildren who are 14-months and 6-months old, Denice Eaves, SafeKids Coordinator with White County Medical Center, said car seat safety is near and dear to her heart.
While it is not yet a state law, car seat safety guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that infants and toddlers under the age of two years old sit rear-facing, as long as they do not exceed the maximum height and weight for the seat.
“Ideally, we want the maximum safety for our children, so it is best to follow the AAP’s recommendation,” Eaves said. “Many of the convertible car seats available now accommodate children from 35 to 40 pounds who sit rear-facing. The primary reason for this recommendation is because babies have not yet developed a strong neck and spine that would be supported in a vehicle crash.”
Preschoolers should ride in a car seat with a harness until age 4; ideally, the seat would include a five-point harness. The AAP also included guidelines for children who use booster seats. School-aged children are encouraged to sit in a belt-positioning booster seat until they reach age 8 and weigh 80 pounds.
“To test whether your child will fit in your vehicle without a booster seat, do a fit test by having him/her sit all the way back in the seat. If his/her feet touch the floor, they can ride in the vehicle without a seat as long as they are eight years old and 80 pounds,” Eaves said. “Also, make sure that the seat belt lies correctly across their shoulder; they should never put it behind their back or under their arm. If it is not a good fit, they should still ride in a booster seat.”
According to Eaves, another important fact to remember is that car seats do expire; expiration dates are either printed on a sticker or embossed on the seat itself. Also, car seats that have been involved in a crash where anyone in the car is injured must be replaced.
“Cars and car seats are a lot like people, they come in all shapes and sizes; therefore, it is critical to find the right car seat or booster seat that fits your child and also will fit well in your vehicle,” Eaves said. “Safety reports are nice, but the brand does not matter as long as you follow the AAP’s guidelines and is properly installed in your car to keep your little ones safe and secure.”
For questions or to schedule an appointment regarding installing a car seat or safety check, please call Eaves at (501) 380-1260.