Every day, four to five children are killed in car crashes in the U.S. While more and more laws are being put into place in an attempt to protect kids involved in accidents, one pediatrician that some people call “the Car Seat Lady” tries to keep parents more informed about how to properly buckle their child up. According to Car Seat Lady, Alisa Baer, M.D., about 95% of us are misusing our child’s safety seat.
At Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers, many of our car accident lawyers and staff have young children, so we know how important it is to ensure that car seats are used correctly. Here are some important “do’s” and “don’ts” about car seat use that you should always follow:
Don’t: Buy a Used Car Seat
There are a lot of things experts say should not be bought used: mattresses, makeup, and dog toys should be bought new simply to avoid the “ick” factor. But car seats, expensive as they may be, should always be bought new. Car seats are no longer safe if they’ve been in an accident: even if it was a minor crash, and even if the child wasn’t in the seat when the crash occurred. Some parents even try to sell car seats after they’ve been in an accident. There’s no way of knowing the history of a particular car seat, so parents should avoid an unsafe car seat injury by always buying new.
Do: Test your Kid’s Coats to Be Sure They Aren’t Too Bulky for the Harness
Bulky winter coats are a serious threat to car accident safety. In the event of a car accident, the high speeds can compress the jacket enough that the child can slip right out from the loose straps. If you’re unsure about whether or not your child’s jacket is too bulky, do a quick test.
- 1. Strap your child in with their coat on—adjusting the harness as you usually would.
- 2. Take the child out without loosening the straps
- 3. Take the child’s coat off
- 4. Put the child back in the car seat
- 5. Buckle the harness, but don’t tighten the straps
- 6. If you can fit more than two fingers between the harness and the child’s collarbone, the coat is too thick for the car seat.
Don’t: Face Your Child Forward Too Soon
Facing Forward, moving up to a booster seat, sitting in the front seat: these often seem like rights of passage to a child, and it’s hard to say “no” to an emotionally mature 12-year-old who isn’t quite tall enough to fit in a seat belt without a booster seat. Explain to your kid that each level of safety seat is designed for their small size, and doesn’t reflect how “grown up” they act.
Seat belts are designed for people who are at least four foot nine inches tall. In the event of a car accident, a child who is too short for the seatbelt could suffer damage to the internal organs or spinal cord. Pay attention to your child’s growth and your car seat or booster seat manual. It’s important that your child is strapped in to the right type of harness.
Do: Always Use the Tether
Only 42% of parents use the car seat tether. The tether acts as an anchor between the top of the car seat and your car. In forward facing car seats, it keeps your child’s head from going too far forward—protecting against brain or spinal cord injuries. Check both your car manual and car seat manual to find out how to properly attach the tether.
Don’t: Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Manufacturers hire highly educated engineers to develop and test their car seats in several types of crashes. But parents don’t get to enlist the help of these engineers to explain how exactly the complicated equipment is supposed to fit into their car, right? Wrong: you can go to the NHTSA’s website to find a local car seat inspection station.
Parents Advised Not To Use Anchors in Car Seats >>
Certified technicians will inspect your car seat (usually for free) so that you can ensure that your seat is safely installed. It’s a small errand that can save your child’s life in the event of an accident.
Do: Buckle Yourself In
This may seem like a safety reminder we simply stuck in to remind parents not to commit any bad habits, but a driver who is not wearing a seatbelt makes buckled in passengers more likely to die when a car accident occurs. At even a 30mph crash, a person’s weight is magnified 20-25 times. If an adult is thrown around at these speeds, the force at which they hit another passenger can be deadly.
Protect yourself and other passengers by buckling yourself into the car. It should be a rule everybody in your vehicle has to follow.
Do: Contact a St. Louis Car Accident Attorney
Being in a car accident is a horrific experience, especially when little ones are in the car. Make sure to follow every possible safety precaution to keep your children safe. If you are involved in a car crash, contact an injury attorney at Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers as soon as practicable. Insurance companies can often make the experience more frustrating than it already is and we are here to help.