Car seats are meant to protect your child; to ensure their safety while riding in a motor vehicle. They can also be deadly if not used properly as was the case in the death of a four-month-old last July. The child fell asleep in a car seat then managed to turn partially to his side and stomach which caused his head and neck to become hyper-extended, blocking his airway.
While installing and using child safety seats may appear easy, the NHTSA has estimated that close to 3 out of 4 parents do not properly use child restraints which puts a child at an increased risk of serious injury or death. Parents often admit to being confused because there are so many different types of car seats and types of vehicles. It is important to have an inspection by a certified technician; ask to see their certification card. Many parents will stop by the fire station or meet with firefighters and community events. Firefighters mean well, but the fact is not all firefighters are trained to inspect car seat installations; they should be certified.
During Child Passenger Safety Week, September 19-25, the NHTSA is encouraging all parents and caregivers to have their children’s car seats inspected. The week concludes with National Seat Checks on Saturday. Certified technicians will provide free, hands-on child safety seat inspections and show you how to correctly install and use your child’s car seat. Use this locator to find a child safety seat inspection station nearest you.
No one brand car seat is safer than the other; all car seats sold in the U.S. must meet the same standards. Parents should choose the one that fits their vehicle and that they can use correctly. The NHTSA’s website has “Ease of Use Ratings” where parents and technicians rate car seats on a five-point scale. Many parents don’t know this, but stores such as Babies R Us will usually lets customers take a car seat out to their car and try it (in exchange for a driver’s license, or a salesperson accompanying them).
Always read the child safety seat instructions and the vehicle’s owner manual regarding child car seats. According to the NHTSA, child safety seats reduce the risk of death for infants (under 1 year old) in a vehicle crash by 71 percent, and reduce the likelihood to toddlers (1 to 4 years old) by 54 percent. Here are a few car seat safety tips for parents to keep in mind.
1. Use the car seat appropriate for your child’s height and weight.
2. Do not recline the seat more than 45 degrees.
3. Make sure the restraint harness is adjusted appropriately to accommodate the child’s clothing.
4. And the child must always remain on his or her back in the car seat so the head stays in contact with the seat and the airways remain open.
5. For the best protection keep infants in the back seat, in a rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible. Never turn a child forward-facing before age 1 and at least 20 pounds.
6. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in a back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular harnessed seat.
7. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats, they should ride in a booster seat, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly.
8. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt rests on the shoulder or collar bone (usually when the child is between 8 and 12 years old, approximately 4’9" tall and 80 to 100 pounds).
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plantiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.