We hear that it’s important to “know your numbers,” such as blood pressure and cholesterol, when it comes to our health. Parents and caregivers especially concern themselves with the growth and developmental milestones of their child, since understanding this can help keep that child healthy.
Did you know that there are many numbers associated with a child’s safety in a motor vehicle? Here are some examples:
- A properly installed child safety seat will not move more than 1 inch side-to-side or front to back
- Children should be in rear-facing car seats until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. Most convertible, 3-in-1, or all-in-one seat have limits that will permit a child to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more. Rear-facing supports the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers and distributes the force of the collision over the entire body.
- Most car seats expire 6 years from the date of manufacture. This is because the majority of seats have a plastic shell. Plastic breaks down and degrades over time, becoming brittle, which could be very dangerous in a crash.
- The minimum age and weight at which a child should go into a booster seat is 4 years old AND 40 pounds. Best practice is for children to stay harnessed until between age 5 and 6.
Children should stay in a booster seat until they are 8 years old and you can answer YES to these 5 questions:
- Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
- Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat with the feet touching the floor?
- Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
- Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
- Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
- All children aged 13 or younger should always ride in the back seat.
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by up to 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. But 73% (or more) of car seats are used or installed incorrectly. So before you hit the road, check your child’s car seat. Here’s a quick checklistto help you. It takes only 15 minutes. Isn’t that a small investment of time to protect your most precious cargo?
Maureen Johnson is a child passenger safety specialist at the UVM Medical Center.