Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 18-24, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA. The goal is to inform parents and caregivers about proper car seat safety for infants and children.
While infants and toddlers under the age of 24 months are recommended to ride in rear-facing car seats, the specifications for children two years of age and older can get muddled from there.
Each rear-facing car seat has its own height and weight limits, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has cited one year and 20 pounds as the minimum requirement for flipping the car seat to face the front of the vehicle, though it is still recommended that children remain rear-facing as long as possible.
So what makes rear-facing better for infants? According to AAA, rear-facing car seats are designed to distribute crash forces across the shell of the car seat. For crashes that occur at the front or side of the vehicle, these take the impact, protecting the child’s head, neck and spine.
When a child has outgrown the limits for height and weight, he or she is moved to a booster seat that is designed to raise the child up to adult height to accommodate the use of a seat belt. As with car seats, booster seats are meant to absorb force from impact.
But the seats alone are not enough to keep children safe.
Making sure seats are installed properly requires more than just reading the manual. Car seats need to be snug, with only an inch of wiggle room from side to side, and set to the proper angle for the child’s age. A professional inspector can make sure the seat is set up correctly.
Buying used car seats can also pose a threat. Though it may look undamaged, it is almost impossible to know if it has been involved in a car wreck that may have jeopardized its safety features or if it is past the expiration date. The plastic in older models can degrade over time and cause them to be structurally compromised.
With so much information circulating about this topic, it can be difficult for parents and caregivers to know for sure what is safest for children.
If in doubt, parents can bring safety seats to be checked for proper installation and appropriateness for a child’s age, weight and height from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Altus Fire Sub Station No. 1, 1915 N. Main St. in Altus.
For those unable to attend the event, members of the Altus Fire Department are available to perform car seat inspections by appointment.
For more information, contact the Altus Fire Department at 580-481-2231.
Reach Katrina Goforth at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.