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Keeping Our Babies Safe in Motion

Written by Bridget Horan, DC, DACCP   
Friday, 01 June 2007 00:00
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Although I would love to stay at home all day with my baby, my life requires me to leave home on occasion.

Well actually, my son, Xander, and I usually have to venture out everyday. The one thing I can count on is that when I put Xander in his car seat I have done everything possible to make him safe on our journey. When I was pregnant, I went to register for my baby shower. What a confusing and overwhelming experience to say the least. You have the list of “necessities” and the little sensor gun. Of course, once you got started, the things like bedding, towels, and clothes were easy. You just picked the color scheme you wanted. Then, it was time to pick out the stroller and high chair. These items were also based on the look, color, and ease of setting up and taking down. Now, I was almost done. I had only the car seat left. I remember standing there in the aisle just staring. I had no idea what I needed. There were infant-only seats, toddler seats, convertible seats, and booster seats. There were instructions on them regarding forward facing and rear facing. Did they all fit in every car? Will my baby need the same seat or different seats? Was it based on age or weight? I had to stop and think a minute. I then decided to call a few friends who already have children. After those phone calls, I didn’t know if I felt any better. Each friend had a different brand and style. Each friend had different advice on why their seat was the best. I decided to start with the one that was made for the smallest baby. I chose an infant seat.

That seems like so long ago. I made a very good choice that day but I have definitely learned a lot since then. I have learned that the best seat for your child is the one that fits your child the best, is used properly, and is used every time you drive. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued some basic guidelines for Car Seat Safety. There are as follows:

  • Always use a car seat.
  • Read the car seat manufacturer’s instructions and keep them with the car seat.
  • Read your vehicle owner’s manual for important information on how to install the car seat correctly for your specific vehicle.
  • The safest place for all children is in the back seat.
  • Never place a child in a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger airbag.
  • The harness system holds your child in the car safety seat. The seat belt or lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) system hold the car seat in the car.

All of these may sound like common sense, but many children are unnecessarily injured in car accidents because car seats are used incorrectly or not at all. Children are improperly placed in them or are in a car seat not right for their size. Many safety experts believe that 80–90% of car seats are not installed and/or used properly.1 Nationally, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14 years. We can take steps to change these statistics.2

In my state, Illinois, the law requires that a child from birth to 8 years of age be transported in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat when traveling in a vehicle. Children between the ages of 8 and 16 must be secured in a seatbelt.2