New Car Safety Guidelines 2018

The #1 killer of our children over 4 years of age is vehicle crashes. New car safety guidelines are based on safety data to keep our kids safe.

The AAP recently released new car safety guidelines for kids. The number one killer of our children over 4 years of age is vehicle crashes. These new guidelines are based on safety data and research about how to keep our kids safe. They are not meant to keep kids happy. They will be hard to enforce at the beginning, but it’s worth it to keep our kids alive! Once kids know this is not negotiable, the fighting will decrease. Spread the word to your friends with kids so yours don’t feel like they’re the only ones who must stay in a safety seat. Plus you might save a life!

A big thank you to Molly Blair for the colorful photos!

General car safety tips

Car seat choice and maintenance

  • The best seat is not necessarily the most expensive. Choose a seat that fits your child and your car.
  • Car seats expire. Write when your seats are close to expiring on your calendar.
  • You should not buy a used car seat from anyone you don’t know. It is not possible to verify that it hasn’t been in an accident in this situation.
  • Register your car seat so you will be notified in case of recalls.
  • If you’re in an accident, your car seats may need to be replaced. Insurance may cover this cost.
  • Do not remove the stickers that provide important information, such as the height and weight limits of the seat.
  • Always review the size minimum and maximums of your car seat. Make it a habit to check the seat’s limitations after each well visit check to be sure your child’s height and weight still fit in the seat as it is being used.

Car seat use and mis-use

  • Bring your child and the car seat to a certified car seat installer with each change in seat and change in vehicle.
  • The most common mistake other than installing a seat improperly is to move a child to the next seat too quickly. Keep your child in the seat until they meet the height or weight limit. Each transition (from rear-facing to forward-facing, forward-facing to booster, and booster to lap/shoulder belt) lowers the child’s protection.
  • Do not use attachments, such as a head roll, in a seat unless it was tested and sold with your seat.
  • Keep bulky clothing and padding out of the car seat. Layer clothing if it’s cold. 
  • Rear facing allows the head and spine to be protected in case of a crash. It is the safest way to travel. The head, neck, and spine are all supported by the hard shell of the car safety seat. They all move together, with little relative movement between body parts.
  • When children ride forward-facing, their bodies are restrained by the harness straps, but their heads can be thrown forward in an accident. This can lead to more spine and head injuries.

potential problem with following the guidelines

  • If your child suffers from motion sickness (car sickness) when rear facing, talk to your pediatrician.
  • Kids will resist many things, including properly buckling up. It is worth it to insist that they’re safe. Try various parenting strategies.
          ~Model safe behavior by talking about what you’re doing as you buckle (since they can’t see you when they’re rear facing).

~Kids like choices, so offer choices about climbing in or getting put in the seat or if they want to help do the buckle. The choice is never whether or not to ride safely. Find acceptable choices that end with them properly buckled.

~There are more ideas in 5 Tricks to Get an Uncooperative Toddler Into Their Car Seat.

~Older kids can learn about why they need this level of safety seat to remain safe. I know my kids are both shorter than classmates, so it was a regular discussion in my house. They always ended up agreeing that it was necessary when we looked at age-appropriate crash pictures and safety data. (Do an online search to preview sites without your kids so they aren’t exposed to more than they can handle.) I ask kids in my office all the time if I should ride a motorcycle without a helmet – it’s legal in my state. They all say “no” and then seem to comprehend that just because it’s legal doesn’t make it safe.

Summary of the car safety guidelines

Infants through preschool years

Infants should always remain rear facing. Both rear-facing only seats and convertible seats can serve this purpose.

Infants should remain rear facing until they outgrow the limits of their car seat.

Rear-facing only seats

Rear-facing only seats are convenient because they can be snapped in and out of bases. This allows various drivers to have bases installed in their vehicle and the seat can be used in multiple vehicles.

Rear-facing only seats tend to have lesser weight and height allowances, but as infants become toddlers they do not need a carrying seat. Not to mention the safety issues with carrying a heavy kid in a heavy seat – we don’t need parents to hurt themselves!

Although these infant rear-facing carrying seats can be used to carry infants in and out of buildings to the vehicle, it is not recommended to use them long term outside of the vehicle. They are not approved for overnight sleeping.

Convertible seats

Convertible seats are able to be used rear facing until a child outgrows the weight or height maximum.

The minimum weight recommended to turn forward facing is now 40 pounds unless the seat has a lower maximum for rear facing.

This means most toddlers and preschoolers should be staying rear facing.

When kids turn forward in the car, they should stay in their harness.
When kids turn forward in the car, they should stay in their harness.

School aged kids

Convertible seats

Convertible seats will accommodate children rear facing until they are 40-90 pounds.

Keep ’em rear facing longer!

The earliest it is now recommended to turn kids forward facing is 40 pounds. I know kids will fight this, but it’s worth it based on the safety studies.

This means that kids who are school aged might still fit best rear facing.

Rear facing is the safest way to travel, and remember that the #1 killer of our kids over 4 years is automobile crashes. Let’s change that and keep kids rear facing longer.

When kids are over the rear-facing maximum of their seat, turn them around, but leave the harness on. There’s a reason race car drivers use a harness and not just a lap and shoulder belt. Harnesses are safer! Use it until your child outgrows the limits of the seat.

Race car drivers still use a harness seatbelt - your kids should use one too until they're big enough to fit without.
Race car drivers still use a harness seatbelt – your kids should use one too until they’re big enough to fit without.
Booster seats

Booster seats help keep the lap and shoulder belt positioned properly until a child is tall enough and old enough to not require it. It is generally around 4 foot 9 inches that kids are big enough to sit in most vehicles without a booster. Most kids are not this tall until 10-12 years of age, even though many state laws allow much younger kids to sit without a booster.

Age is not the main factor in deciding when a child should move out of  a booster. Use the 5 point test to see if your child fits properly in the vehicle. I always say it’s the size of the child as well as the size of the vehicle’s seat that matters.

Don't let kids move out of the booster seat too soon! Age doesn't matter as much as fit.
Don’t let kids move out of the booster seat too soon! Age doesn’t matter as much as fit.
Seat belt alone

When kids fit properly in the vehicle’s seat without a booster seat, they still should sit properly.

If your child cannot sit upright in the seat, a booster is still recommended to keep the belt properly positioned.

No one should slide their hips away from the back of the seat to slouch in the seat. This allows the seat belt to ride up onto the abdomen, which increases the risk of injury in a crash.

Use seat belts properly and have kids sit in the safest seat always! Only teens and adults should sit up front.
Use seat belts properly and have kids sit in the safest seat always! Only teens and adults should sit up front.
Front seat

All children less than 13 years of age should remain in the back seat.

It’s easy to remember that only teens and adults can sit up front.

This is not based only on height or weight. Physical maturity makes a difference as well.

And remember…

Don’t rush your kids to grow up too soon!

Car Seats for Safety

It’s been years since I’ve written about car seat safety and since September 17-23, 2017, is Child Passenger Safety Week I thought I’d take a moment to review car seat safety basics and share some of my favorite car seat safety links.

Most parents are now aware that all infants must be in a rear facing car seat, but many turn their toddlers around too early or let older kids move to the next level too soon.

I tell kids all the time that the state law is the bare minimum, but it isn’t necessarily the safest way to ride. I use the example that in my state an adult can ride a motorcycle without a helmet, but that’s not safe. They usually agree, and I think it helps them understand that just because it’s legal to do something, it doesn’t make it safe to do.

Kids learn from the behaviors they see their parents display, so all parents should buckle up for safety!

Which car seat is best?

When looking for a car seat or booster seat, don’t assume spending more money will buy a better seat.

You need to be sure it fits your vehicle and your child.

Whatever seat you buy, be sure to register it so you are notified of any recalls.

Infants and children under 2 years or 30 pounds

Infants and children under 2 years should ride rear facing unless they are bigger than the height or weight maximum for the seat.

Children over 2 years who still fit in the height and weight requirements of the rear facing car seat can still ride rear facing safely.

Another safety factor for infants and young children: don’t leave them in the car!

Young children often fall asleep in the car.

If sleep deprived (no parent is ever really well rested) and in a hurry, even the best parent can be distracted and forget about the sleeping baby.

There are many tips to follow to be sure you don’t leave your baby unattended in the car.

Children 2 years and older

Kids over 2 years (and those larger than the rear facing car seat maximum height or weight) should use a forward facing car seat with a 5 point harness.

They should continue the harness until they are mature enough and big enough. This means they must be capable of staying seated during the duration of the drive. Of course they must meet the minimum height and weight requirements for a booster seat.

Learn to use the tether properly with your forward facing car seat.

There are limits to using the LATCH system. LATCH stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.” It was developed to help parents more easily install seats in cars and eliminate seatbelt incompatibilities. What you may not know is that the LATCH anchors are currently designed for a maximum combined weight of the child and child seat of 65 lbs.  Once the child + seat exceeds this weight, the seat must be installed using the vehicle seat belt, not LATCH. Depending on the weight of the child seat, your child may weigh quite a bit less than 65 lbs and need to stop using the LATCH.

Moving to a booster

Children should remain in a booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits them properly.

This is generally between 10 and 12 years of age and about 4 foot 9 inches, but varies based on the size of the vehicle’s seat.

Everyone should always use the vehicle’s seat belt (or car seat harness) when riding.

Have your kids take the 5 Step Test to see if kids can safely ride without a booster.

Sitting up front

Only teens and adults should sit in the front seat. It’s always safer in the back seat.

If you look at the sticker on the passenger side visor, it will say something to the effect that children 12 and under are safer in the back seat. That means wait until 13 years of age to sit up front.

Airbags can be dangerous if a passenger is too short for it to hit properly in the chest. The force of the airbag can cause significant injury to the face or neck. If the airbag is turned off, the passenger is at risk of hitting the dashboard or being ejected from the car.

Even big kids don’t have the muscle or bone strength to be safe up front. They aren’t mini-adults.

Winter safety

In the winter months it’s important to avoid over bundling infants and children in car seats.

The added layers and padding of clothing can increase the amount a child can move in the force of a crash or sudden stop. The Car Seat Lady has great tips to keep kids warm and safe in the cold weather.

Car seat additions and accessories

Don’t use car seat attachments and accessories that were not sold with the seat. They may look cute or seem to make your child more comfortable, but if they haven’t been tested with the seat they may not be safe.

This includes neck rolls, shoulder pads, winter covers that go between the child and the seat, dangling toys, and more.

If you’re in an accident and have these additions they might void the warranty of the seat.

What if kids try to escape the car seat?

Do you have a Houdini? If your toddler or preschooler is able to weasel out of the car seat harness, try this button down shirt trick.

How can you be sure your kids are buckled correctly?

Take your kids to a certified car seat installer to see if they’re buckled in properly. Car Seats for the Littles has information about how to find an installer near you.

Register your car seats so you can be alerted if they are recalled.

Identification Stickers

Car Seat Stickers are a great way to notify first responders who to call if you’ve been in an accident and aren’t able to communicate.

I recommend putting them under the cloth part of infant seats so they aren’t visible when you’re carrying the seat in public. You can put a small sticker on the handle to let emergency personnel know to look under the padding for emergency contact information.

Once kids are out of the infant seat you can put the sticker on the outside of the seat, just not over any important information. Never cover the height/weight max information or other things you’ll want to see later.

My office gives stickers from the W.H.A.L.E. Program to patients, but you can print your own at home and attach them to your seat with wide clear tape. Information to include would be:

  • Child’s name, birth date, address, allergies, important health history, medications
  • Parent’s names and phone numbers (cell and work)
  • One emergency contact name and phone number (not a parent)
  • Doctor’s name and number
  • Childcare provider name and number if applicable

After an accident

Remember that if you’re in an accident, your car seats might need to be replaced. Talk to your insurance company.

Used car seats

Used and borrowed seats cautions

  • Be sure to know when your seats expire. The seats typically expire about 6 years after manufacturing. This is due to unseen breakdown in the materials used to make the seat.
  • Never buy a used seat from someone you do not know. A friend should verify that it hasn’t been in an accident and it’s not expired before you use it.
  • Don’t just throw your old car seat away. Someone might try to use it past its expiration date. You can break it down into pieces to make it unusable or you can see if you can recycle it.

Just for fun…

The model in the top photo is my daughter at a car seat check many years ago. She now is (hopefully) a safe driver herself.

The original car seat safety blog was on by old blogspot site. 
Talk to teens about safe driving.
Teen Safe Driving Tips will be covered in another blog… coming June 2018!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teen safe driving tips will be covered in a June 2018 blog. Watch for it if you have new drivers!

For more information:

 

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