September 17, 2002
Methodist Rehabilitation Center encourages parents to think first during National Baby Safety Month
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—As a part of Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide injury prevention program, physicians and staff at the Jackson hospital are encouraging parents to always think first about seatbelt safety, especially during National Baby Safety Month.
Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehab, encourages parents to make sure children are properly secured in an appropriate child safety seat.
“Nearly 80 percent of children are incorrectly restrained when riding in a motor vehicle,” said Dr. Vohra. “Wearing a seatbelt can reduce the risk of serious injury by as much as 50 percent.”
Children age 12 and under should always ride in the back seat in one of the following types of seats:
- Infant Seats. Infant seats are designed for babies from birth until at least 20 pounds and one year of age. They must ride rear facing in their safety seats with harness straps at or below shoulder level until they are at the appropriate size and age to move to convertible safety seats.
- Convertible Safety Seats. These seats convert from rear facing for infants to forward facing for toddlers weighing at least 20 pounds. Children should remain in a forward-facing seat from 20 pounds until they reach approximately 40 pounds and four years of age.
- Booster Seats. These seats are used as a transition to safety belts for children 4 to 8 years old. Booster seats must be used with lap and shoulder belt.
- Safety Belts. When a child is over 8 years old and 4 foot 9 inches, they can be moved out of a booster seat to an adult safety belt. To secure a safety belt properly, the lap belt should fit snugly and properly across the upper thighs and the shoulder strap should cross over the shoulder and across the chest. All children should ride in the back seat until age twelve.
Think First director Lauren Fairburn says to never use a child safety seat that is more than six years old and to always make sure the seat has not been recalled.
“Never use a car seat that does not have a label with the date of manufacture and model number,” said Fairburn. “Many times older car seats do not meet today’s safety requirements.”
Fairburn recommends the following before using an older car seat:
- Have a car seat technician inspect the seat. It could have been in a crash and be weakened, even if it looks fine. Do not use a seat if you do not know its history.
- Check to see if it comes with instructions. You need them to know how to use the car seat. Do not rely on the former owner's directions. Get a copy of the instruction manual from the manufacturer before you use the seat.
- Make sure there are no cracks in the frame of the seat.
- Is the car seat missing parts? Used seats often come without important parts. Check with the manufacturer to make sure you can get the right parts.
To check for recalls log onto the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site at www.nhtsa.dot.gov. If the seat has been recalled, be sure to follow instructions to fix it or get the necessary parts. You also may get a registration card for future recall notices from the hot line.
The Think First program at Methodist Rehab tries to prevent spinal cord, brain and other traumatic injuries by focusing on bicycle, automobile, firearm, boat, swimming and diving safety. Think First speakers volunteer their time to encourage others to wear safety belts when driving, helmets when riding bicycles and motorcycles and to think about what they’re doing before they get into any potentially dangerous situation.