Parents! Are You Up to Speed with Car Seat Regulations? Check Again…
If you were on a reality show, where judges watched you tuck your kids into their car seats and rated your technique, do you think you would earn a pass or fail? Some of you will answer with a definite “yes”. There will be a few of you who are bold enough to say “I probably wouldn’t”. But an even greater number of you will answer in hesitation, “I hope so,”, “I’m pretty sure I do.” Well here’s some sobering news – many people are not following car seat regulations to a tee, placing their kids at risk for injury if an accident were to occur. This isn’t meant to be an attack on parenting skills, but rather, a wake up call for everyone who has children.
Car Seat Faux-Pas
Accidents and injuries aren’t always preventable, but there’s a lot that can be done to minimize their impact. This is certainly true for kids who are involved in collisions. When parents are able to properly secure their kids, their child’s safety increases dramatically. But the opposite is also true. It’s safe to say that many injuries and deaths among children could have been prevented if their car seats were attached better. The problem is that parents may not immediately see the risks in how they are fastening their kids. If you have children, there are some common mistakes for you to pay attention to and think about.
Common Car Seat Mistakes
- Not using the tether – What may seem like a useless little strap is actually a lifesaving component. It attaches to the anchors that sit behind the headrest, providing protection for your child’s head. The tether decreases forward-head motion by as much as four to eight inches. However, a study revealed a startling number – only 42% of parents use it.
- Incorrect use of the harness – Understandably, parents want their kids to feel comfortable for the ride. You’ve probably seen your toddler squirm and act up under the restraint of the car seat harness. But safety should be your focus. The harness should fit snugly against your child’s body since a tighter grip will keep them secure. Unfortunately, a harness that’s too loose is one of the most common mistakes parents make when fastening their kids in the seat. The middle piece of the harness should be at their chest level – neither too close to their neck or too low where their stomach is.
- Facing your child forward too early – Studies say that putting your child in a rear-facing position is five times safer than facing them forward, especially for kids aged two and younger. Yet still, a large number of parents with very young children prefer to have their kids facing the windshield.
- Using the wrong seat for your child’s dimensions – Although this is one of the most basic rules, it happens to be the one that’s the hardest to follow. Children don’t grow at the same rate, and that’s why they vary tremendously in terms of height and weight. For kids to receive the utmost protection from their seats, you need to put them in a unit that suits their body dimensions. More importantly, it’s vital for you to keep track of your child’s growth, so you can change the seat once they begin to outgrow it.
- Getting rid of booster seat too soon – Don’t let a child’s age fool you. Just because they are 8 or 9 years old and seem mature enough, that doesn’t mean you should take them out of the booster seat right away. Seat belts are generally suited for a minimum height of four feet and nine inches – many kids don’t get that tall until they’re 10 – 12. Fitting a child in a seat belt before they’re an appropriate size can lead to spinal cord damage and head injuries.
The Consequences of Ignoring Protocol
It’s important that you never take any chances with your child’s safety. Ignoring regulations for car seats is a serious issue on so many levels, that’s it not worth risking. That’s why it’s worth re-evaluating your child restraining practices after reading this post. You owe it both to your kids as well as yourself.
The Impact of Poor Car Seat Safety
- Fines and demerit points – Misuse of a child safety restraint might not get you in trouble, but not using one at all (includes a booster unit, hence the reason not to get rid of it too soon), can land you in a hot seat (excuse the pun). The fine is $1,000, and you may earn two demerit points if convicted.
- Injuries – But fines and convictions aren’t the worst consequences. Your child’s wellness is what’s truly at risk if you fail to secure them properly into a seat. In the event of an accident, a child that’s not properly fastened in, has a much greater chance of sustaining a serious injury. That’s why you should make an effort to correct any bad habits you have when it comes to securing your kids in a car seat.
Take a Timeout to Get it Right
Going back to the first paragraph, you may have some doubts as to how well your kids secured. First of all, you should take huge pride for acknowledging your doubts. That’s the first step to ensuring the safety of your kids. The good news is that you can train yourself to fasten them in right, so that you never have to second-guess yourself.
3 Tips for Top Notch Child Safety
- Consult instruction manuals – The fastest way to follow car seat regulations is to consult the unit’s instruction manual. They are written by manufacturer with the intent of teaching you how to use them precisely. So don’t toss them out!
- Ask for help if necessary – You can take it a step further by asking someone for help if you still are in doubt. This could be another friend who you trust, who also is a parent.
- Double check – As soon as you get comfortable with the seat, practice the art of “double checking.” In other words, make it a habit to see that you have properly strapped your child in, and that they aren’t in any compromising positions.
- Move seat around – Another way to ensure your child is properly secured, is to move the seat around to see if it’s loose or not. Sometimes, a seat might get loose during the course of the ride without you knowing, especially if your child is facing the rear. Wiggle the seat a bit to see if it’s loose, and tighten the straps to ensure it doesn’t shift around too much.
Make Your Car a Safe Haven
If you are a parent, there’s no doubt in mind that your children are the most precious people in your lives. You’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe. That mentality shouldn’t end with what you do at home, but also, how you get them ready for car rides. Following all the available advice regarding regulations for car seats will guarantee a safe environment for them in your car. Not only will they be safe, you’ll have peace of mind to focus on the road.