We all want happy and healthy children. That takes thought and effort every day. Most of us have learned to be very careful in our own homes. We lock away harmful substances. We keep hot irons and pots and pans out of reach. We cover electrical outlets and sharp table corners. The water heater is set no higher than 130 degrees. And you can think of many other things that you do to protect your children at home.
Sometimes, however, we leave our caution at the front door. . . or in the garage. In the rush of transporting ourselves and our children from place to place in this busy world, many of us neglect to protect our children from the number one preventable cause of death for young children: Injuries suffered while riding in cars.
Each year, more than 70,000 children under the age of five years are reported as injured ... and many children die ... because they are not protected by child car safety seats or seat belts.
What Can I Do to Protect My Child?
Infants and young children always should ride in car safety seats. A safety seat will hold your child securely in the car and help absorb the forces of even violent crashes.
Isn't My Baby Safe Being Held Tightly In My Arms?
No. When traveling in a car, your arms are the most dangerous place for your baby. This is called the "child crusher position." In a low speed 30-mph crash, even a tiny 10 lb. infant would be ripped from your arms with a force of almost 300 lbs. That's like falling from a three-story building. If you are not using your seat belts, your child would be crushed between your body and the windshield and dash.
How Can I Best Protect My Infant?
Beginning with that first ride home from the hospital, all infants should ride in a semi-reclined, backward-facing car safety seat. It must be anchored to the vehicle with a seat belt, and the harness must be fastened. "Car beds" and flimsy household infant carriers are not designed to protect an infant in a car.
What Does A Toddler or Pre-schooler Need?
All children who can sit up alone or who weigh up to 40 lbs. should be buckled into a forward-facing car safety seat. It must be anchored with a seat belt and with the top anchor strap, if one is provided with the seat. Make sure the harness or protective shield is in place.
What If My Child Must Ride In A Car Without A Safety Seat?
If a car seat is not available for a toddler, the regular car seat should be used. This is safer than riding unrestrained. The seat belt must be snug over the hip/ thigh bones ... not over the belly.
Aren't Child Safety Seats Expensive?
When you consider how important your child's health is to you, a car safety seat is the best bargain you will ever find.
Anything Else I Should Know?
1. Be sure that you read the directions for use of the car seat. Use it exactly as recommended, or your child will not be as safe as possible.
2. Whenever possible, put children in the back seat. It's safer than the front seat.
3. Everyone in the car must buckle up. An unrestrained child or adult can be thrown into otherpassengers and cause serious or even fatal injuries.
IMPROVING YOUR CHILD'S BEHAVIOR
When you take your children for a drive in the car, have you ever been aggravated and distracted by their behavior? Do they climb around the seat, fight, and pull at you or the steeling wheel? If you have to answer 'yes', then your children probably are not buckled up.
Buckled Up = Better Behavior
When not buckled up, children squirm around on the seats, stand up, complain, fight, and pull at the steering wheel. When buckled into car safety seats, there will be fewer incidents of bad behavior.
Why do children behave better when buckled up?
1. They feel secure. In sudden stops and swerves, they are held snugly and comfortably in place.
2. Most car safety seats lift children high enough to see out the window. They want to watch the world go by.
3. Children are less likely to feel car sick and more likely to fall asleep.
Buckled Up = Fewer Accidents
Unrestrained child passengers distract their drivers and this will result in an accident. Think for a moment: how much attention do you pay to your driving when your child falls off the seat, hangs out the window, pulls your hair, or tries to open the door?
With your children buckled up, you can concentrate on your driving without having to worry about their being hurt. You will also be calmer and more relaxed . . . as will your children ... when you arrive at your destination.
Adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics on Car Safety