September 15, 2003
Physician urges parents to correctly buckle up their children
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—September is National Baby Safety Month, a good time for parents to make sure children are safely buckled up while riding in the family car, truck or SUV, says Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson.
“Over 80 percent of children are incorrectly restrained when riding in a motor vehicle,” Vohra said. “Wearing a seatbelt properly can reduce the risk of serious injury by as much as 50 percent.”
Lauren Fairburn, director of Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide injury prevention program, recommends that children age 12 and under 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 one year of age or 20 pounds. Infants should ride in rear facing 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 4 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 a lap and shoulder belt.
- Safety Belts. When a child is over 8 years old and 4 foot 9 inches, they can be moved 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 12.
If you opt for a used car seat, Fairburn recommends checking the seat’s label to determine the manufacturing date and model number. “Avoid using a seat that is more than six years old, because older car seats often don’t meet today’s safety requirements,” Fairburn said. “To make sure the seat hasn’t been recalled, check 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.”
Fairburn also recommends the following tips to ensure a used car seat is safe:
- 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 don’t know its full history.
- Check to see if it comes with instructions. You need 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.
- Check for missing parts. Used seats often come without important parts. Check with the manufacturer to make sure you can get the right parts.
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.