A Pain In The Seat…But Worth It

kid in seatBy Karen Sheehan, MD

As my teenage daughter stomped around the house the other day, in protest to some unjust request (at least in her mind — it seemed reasonable to me and my husband), I longed for the simpler times when she was a young child and I could do no wrong. Until I remembered — those were also the days of car seats!

Although what I say next will probably keep me out of the Injury Prevention Hall of Fame (if one existed), car seats are a pain in the tush. They are bulky, inconvenient and can be a challenge to install. However, there is no question that child passenger safety seats save lives. Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants, and by 54 percent for toddlers between 1 and 4 years of age, according to a report on child passenger safety from the Centers for Disease Control.

It’s hard to ignore those numbers as a parent when your biggest complaint against car seats is that they are inconvenient!

So what are the current recommendations to keep your child safe in cars?

  1. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants and children should be in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until the uppermost height and weight limit that the child safety seat allows, as recommended by the manufacturer.
  2. Once children have outgrown their rear-facing car seat, they should ride forward-facing in a child safety seat with a harness. Children should continue to use the harness until they have reached the height and weight limits recommended by the manufacturer.
  3. Children who have outgrown their car seat or car seat harness must be in booster seats using both the car’s lap and shoulder belt. Children should be placed in a booster safety seat until they are at least 4’9” tall. This ensures that the shoulder and lap belt placement will contact the child in the right areas of the body and will not cause additional serious injury during a crash.
  4. Use the owner’s manual for both the child safety seat and your car to help guide proper installation. If you still have questions or challenges installing the car seat, find a child car seat inspection site near you.
  5. All children age 12 and under should ride in the back seat.

But as I think about it more, even though I started out this blog bemoaning the toddler years and the need for car seats, they are looking pretty good to me right now—I just realized the next stop on the road to adulthood is teen driving!

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