Posted by Claudia Grazioso on February 9, 2012
My oldest child is super tall, and so recently I’ve been thinking that I can retire one of the car seats. I was very much looking forward to it at first. One less thing to switch back and forth between cars, one less thing to carry… one less thing to lose. But then the state we live in passed a new law extending how long a child has to use a booster. At first I was a little annoyed and skeptical. At my daughter’s age, my brother and I were flipping over the seats in the back of the family station wagon. We never even wore seat belts, yet alone sat in boosters. But then I looked into kids and cars, and started to re-think my position.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, car crashes are the leading cause of death for all children ages three to fourteen. As if that’s not sobering enough, most crashes happen close to home — you know, on those familiar roads you feel so comfortable and confident traveling on that somehow your guard goes down a little bit. That’s why some experts now agree that children should stay in boosters as long as possible, and all children should ride in the back seat at least until they are twelve. And don’t just plop kids in the car seat and assume they are safe: straps need to fit snugly to avoid neck and spine injuries, and the seat has to be properly installed in order to provide the protection it is designed to give.
If you are a new parent and new to car seats, have someone check the way your car seat is installed in your car. In my neighborhood, most fire stations will check them for you. If you’re unsure about where to go to have this done, call your local highway patrol.
Aside from car seats, there are a few more car safety issues to watch out for. First, never, ever leave a child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Approximately 30 children die each year from being left alone in a hot car. It can happen incredibly fast, so any amount of time alone in a car is a no-no. I know it’s a pain to lug the baby seat out, and a nightmare to wake the finally-napping toddler. But the possibility of a much bigger nightmare is very real. Second, power windows might be convenient, but they can also trap small hands and, even worse, necks. Keep the power windows locked. They can exert anywhere from thirty to eighty pounds of force. That’s more than enough to do serious damage to small limbs. Third, a car is not a toy or a play structure. They can easily be set into motion. Keep children away from your car and keep it locked when you’re not there.
Finally, don’t assume that a bigger car is a safer car. SUVs might seem imposing, but they are far more likely to flip over in a crash, and statistics show they don’t protect passengers anymore than your average car. If you must have an SUV (and really, people, how 2002), get one with extra stability controls.
So we’re a multi-car seat family again, at least for another few years. Rather than be annoyed or skeptical, now I’m kind of secretly happy. It’s one small trapping of her toddler years I get to hold onto for just a bit longer. For safety reasons, of course.