Highlighting Your Health: Car seat installation is key
Vidant Health Communications
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Around the globe parents are buckling their children into car seats with the very best intentions. Unfortunately, some are missing the mark, placing their most precious cargo in danger.
Following the fine points of car seat safety can reduce the risk of a child’s death in a car crash by as much as 71 percent, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit organization working to help families and communities keep children safe from injuries. Safe Kids works through coalitions around the world, including one in Pitt County at Vidant Medical Center, to implement strategies to teach child safety tactics.
A key focus is on car seat safety, since children spend a lot of time going places. As coordinator of Safe Kids Pitt County, Ellen Walston advises parents to focus on doing three things right:
Buy the right car seat. Buy it new to be certain it meets current safety standards and wasn’t damaged in a crash. Check the label. Register the car seat so you’ll be notified of any recalls from the manufacturer. Make sure it hasn’t expired.
Keep the child facing in the right direction — rear-facing as long as possible. It’s better protection, especially for the neck and spine, in the event of a crash. Rear-facing car seats should never be used in front of an airbag.
Keep the child in the right location — in the back seat until age 13.
In addition, the appropriate fit is critical, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. A properly fitted five-point harness gives the best protection, with harnesses that go over both shoulders, both hips and buckles at the crotch.
Follow the age, weight and height guidelines and switch when the child outgrows it. Walston advises using the tether properly to make sure the car seat is tightly secured, allowing no more than one inch of movement.
When the child begins to ride facing forward, it’s especially important that all passengers in the car wear seat belts, Walston said.
“Your child is watching and even young ones notice when the driver is not buckled or is distracted by a cell phone.”
Surprisingly, most crashes occur within 2 miles of home when drivers fail to properly restrain all passengers for short trips.
Walston advises against adhering anything to the car seat, such as toys or soft covers for the harness. “In an accident, these things become a projectile that can cause serious injury,” she said.
Count on the car seat to “cocoon” the child with the necessary padding from the manufacturer to remain safe in a crash.
Car seats are so strongly tested and manufactured that if a child is properly restrained, injuries are 100 percent preventable, said Walston, who is also the coordinator of the Eastern Carolina Injury Prevention Program at Vidant Medical Center.
It goes beyond the parents’ responsibility. Anyone transporting a child must be knowledgeable and effective in the correct use of car seats, she said. This includes daycare van drivers, grandparents and babysitters.
If the driver gets a child passenger safety citation, Walston’s team offers education sessions twice monthly in return for having the ticket dismissed. Last year, 130 people took advantage of this diversion program, she said.
It’s part of a community service Safe Kids Pitt County offers on the second and fourth Friday of each month at Winterville Fire and Rescue, 2593 N. Railroad St., 9:30–11:30 a.m. and 1:30–4:30 p.m.
Team members who are certified car safety technicians are on hand to examine car seats and train parents and guardians to use them correctly. They also sell rear-facing convertible and forward-facing harness seats as well as high-back booster seats at a discount. The event is free and no appointment is necessary.
More than 400 parents, grandparents and others who transport children took part in Vidant’s Safe Kids child safety seat checks in Winterville over the past year, Walston said. It’s one of the most critical services her team provides. “To us, your child’s safety is of the utmost importance,” she said.
Highlighting Your Health is an educational segment courtesy of Vidant Health that appears twice a month in The Daily Reflector.