The force of a serious accident can put a great deal stress on the body. Without the proper restraint, drivers and passengers could suffer very serious injuries in the event of a crash. Since cars have made seat belts and air bags standard, auto accident-related injuries and fatalities have declined significantly. However, air bags and seat belts are only designed to protect adult-sized drivers and passengers. In order to have suitable protection, children must have proper car seats, booster seats and other restraints according to their size.
To maximize your child’s safety, make sure to choose the right car seat for your child’s age, weight and height. Here are some quick guidelines to keep in mind:
- Newborn-1 year: For infants, choose a rear-facing car seat.
- 1-3 years: Continue using a rear-facing car seat until your child reaches the maximum height and/or weight allowed by the manufacturer, and then switch to a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
- 4-7 years: Use a forward-facing car seat with a harness until your child outgrows it. Then, switch to a booster seat.
- 8-12 years: Use a booster seat until your child can fit a seat belt properly. With a proper-fitting seat belt, the lap belt will fit snugly against the upper thighs and the shoulder belt will fit snugly against the shoulder and chest.
In addition to using children under the age of 13 should always ride in the backseat. Riding facing forward in the front seat significantly raise you child’s risk of going through the windshield in a high-speed crash.
With Arizona fire departments, police stations and the Phoenix Children’s Hospital teaming up with the Ride Safe Program to offer free car seat safety checks and donate car seats to those in need, there is simply no reason to not ensure the highest quality of safety for young passengers in the car.
Choose The Appropriate Child Safety Seat
There are four types of car seats that help children stay safe in vehicles throughout their lifetime:
- Rear-Facing Transportable Car Seat: ideal for infants through two years of age (Academy of Pediatrics)
- Forward-Facing Car Bucket Seat: features a three or four-way harness to lessen the severity of any auto accident injuries if one should occur
- Booster Seats: suitable for children aged four or older and that are under four-feet and nine-inches in height
- Traditional Seat Belts: can be used as early as age eight as long as the child is taller than four-feet and nine inches.
Young children often go through growth spurts, but that does not mean you should be quick to upgrade their car seat level. The car seat manufacturer often includes instructions and limits for when replacement is necessary. Do not move your child to the next step until they physically outgrow the height or weight limit for the child safety device, as the restraints are engineered to fit certain body types until the child ages to be protected by the standard seatbelt.
Check For Slack In The Belts
Anchor straps of all types should be pulled tight when properly anchored. Also frequently check that the latches work correctly. Try using WD-40 to lubricate the latch mechanisms on metal latches that get sticky from spilled drinks or high humidity, Replace any defective clasps (or the entire car seat), so your child is not unrestrained at any point in time.
Get Checked For Free At Your Local Fire Station
Not enough parents take advantage of free advice from those who know car seat safety the best: fire fighters and ambulance personnel. These individuals take several child seat safety classes to help educate the public and properly install child safety seats. Many community fire departments host car seat safety check events with family fun activities to make them both practical and fun.
Don’t Be Embarrassed Be Proactive
Join the millions of parents globally who are uncertain about which car seat is best for their child. There are resources available to teach you what to look for when transporting young ones in a safe manner. Look for resources at your local baby goods store or first responders’ stations. You can often find safety guides online from car seat manufacturers, auto safety organization websites and parenting blogs. Seek advice and make sure you’re providing the safest environment possible for your child.
Auto accidents can be devastation, especially for young passengers, but the proper use of car seats can save their lives and lessen their injuries. If your child has been injured in a car accident with or without a car seat, contact the personal injury attorneys at SGP Law in Mesa, Arizona for assistance.
Read The Car Seat Safety Manual Before Installing
One of the most important steps you will take before installing your child’s car seat is reading the manual. Not only will you gain knowledge on the design and features the car seat holds for your convenience, but you will learn finer details about installation you might have otherwise missed.
For example, some vehicle models do not suggest using a car seat in the back middle seat, while it is completely fine for others. Likewise, the safety manual will go into detail regarding the latch vs. seatbelt suggestion according to your child’s weight and height. Some car seats are designed to fit your child in the latch position until 45lbs while other thresholds can reach up to 60lb. It all depends on the make and model of your car seat.
If you have questions about installation, contact a certified car seat technician in your local area rather than the local fire department. Fire stations are hardly ever equipped with personnel who are well versed or certified in car seat installation.
Understand Important Features Of The Car Seat
Car seats are designed to keep our children safe, and the methods for chest clip location, strap tightness, elevation, and positioning are all important aspects to review. Once your car seat is installed and level, put your child in and make sure you have covered your bases. Some basic design mechanisms installed in your child’s car seat help prevent serious injury, yet improperly strapping your child in can negate these measures and result in an injury in the event of a crash.
Keep the chest clip at armpit level, use a pinch test to check for access straps (tighten when necessary) and make sure the seat is level and your child is appropriately positioned in either rear facing or forward facing depending on their height and weight. Children are encouraged to stay rear facing as long as the weight and height restrictions allow.
Check For Damages And Other Imperfections
Even the slightest imperfection in your child’s car seat can be bad news in the event of a car accident. Periodically check your child’s seat for faulty or broken impact foam and reinforcements. Make sure the seat isn’t moving more than an inch left or right when tethered or latched and always contact the car seat manufacturer if you need a replacement part. Our lives are busy and our kids can get messy. When it comes time to wash your child’s seat never wash the straps and always make sure design features like the side impact cushions, tether/anchors, and latch systems are performing optimally.
Stay Up To Date On Car Seat Safety Recalls
When you purchase a new car seat you are prompted to fill out a form and send it to the manufacturer. In the event of a recall. the company is legally required to contact you and offer a replacement part or seat if the car seat is deemed unsafe for use in a vehicle. Safety in child car seats is taken very seriously, and you will want to replace the seat immediately should a recall occur.
If you are concerned your child’s car seat might be involved in a recall, contact the manufacturer immediately and talk to a customer service representative.
A product liability claim against the car seat manufacturer may exist in cases where the malfunctioning product has contributed to harm. The Personal Injury Lawyers at Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience, PLC want you to know which car seats may be especially unsafe and what you can do to make sure your child has the best transportation safety available.
Earlier in April, Evenflo Company Inc. announced a voluntary recall of over 1.3 million child safety seat buckles. The company stated concerns over an inability to unbuckle the seats quickly in an emergency situation as the cause for the recall. The buckle would get stuck in the latch, a situation that can become life-threatening. While Evenflo officials report that no injuries have been reported due to this and that it mainly occurs when buckles become sticky from food or drink spills contaminating the lock, the company is not keen to take chances with the lives of its most valued customers. A similar recall was issued by Graco earlier in 2014 listing improper maintenance and care of the seat as a leading cause of malfunction.
In order to educate parents about the proper use of car seats, Safe Kids Worldwide, a non-profit organization that focuses on preventing childhood injuries, suggests the following safety tips:
- Make sure you are using the proper seat for the child’s age and size.
- Make sure the seat is positioned correctly. Children under the age of two should use rear-facing seats. Consult the seat’s specific guidance for which anchors and tethers to use for your child.
- Replace the seat if it has been in a moderate or severe crash. Don’t purchase a used car seat unless you know its history. Bear in mind that car seats wear out over time and their warranties eventually expire, generally after six years.
- Install the seat properly. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, nearly three out of four car seats are installed improperly. Have the car seat inspected by a certified technician. The Safe Kids site and Seatcheck.org can help you find a technician, and the Phoenix Fire and Police departments often hold inspections of safety seats.
- Educate your passengers. Never drive with an unrestrained passenger and teach your children to always buckle up before the car begins its journey.
The auto accident attorneys of Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience are here to help with all your personal injury legal needs. Please contact us for a free legal consultation.