According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, nearly 250,000 American children are injured every year in car accidents.
Here are some helpful tips which will enable parents to keep their child safe in the family car during those important first years of life:
* Like a crib, a car seat is a necessity. If possible, purchase a new one . This is not an item on which to save money. Second-hand car seats may have been damaged in an accident, or may be cracked or worn in a vital area, not readily visible to an observer.
* As you are removing the car seat from the box, check to see that all the necessary hardware has been included.
* Fill out the registration card and send it in. If there is a recall, the manufacturer will be able to notify you.
* Install the seat before the birth, so the baby will be able to ride home from the hospital safely.
* Read the car seat installation instructions and the relevant information in your vehicle owner's manual carefully before you start the installation process. Follow the directions carefully.
* Babies under one year of age, and those weighing less than twenty pounds, require a rear-facing car seat. The safest place to install it is in the middle of the back seat, away from air bags.
* After installation, holding both sides of the car seat near the middle, give it several firm tugs from side to side. It should not move more than an inch either way.
* The safety harness straps must fit snugly over the shoulders and down, without causing breathing difficulty. If you can slip one or two fingers under the straps comfortably, near the baby's collar bone, it should be just about right.
* The chest clip should be about the level of the baby's armpits.
* Add nothing to the seat that did not come with it. It is engineered to function best without any add-ons, such as pillows or neck supports. Also, be aware that adding to or adjusting the seat in any way, can release the manufacturer from liability in the event of an accident or injury to the child.
* When the child is a year old and weighs more than twenty pounds, he may ride in a forward-facing car seat.
* Some infantseats are convertible to forward-facing. When attempting this procedure, be sure to follow instructions carefully, attaching the tether strap to the tether anchor in the car as directed.
* The shoulder straps should be at or above the child's shoulders.
* The safest placement for the seat is still in the middle of the back seat, away from air bags.
* Be sure to secure the child snugly each time, before you buckle yourself into the driver's seat.
* Never leave a child alone in a car.
* When child reaches a weight of forty pounds, he is ready for a booster seat. These devices raise the child up so that regular seat belt functions effectively.
* The seat belt must be the combination type which crosses both the lap and shoulder.
* The child's head must be supported either by the top of the booster, or the car seat.
* The shoulder strap must lie across the child's shoulder and middle of his chest. The lap belt must cross low over the hips .
* When the child turns eight years old, or weighs eighty pounds, he is ready for a regular seatbelt.
Special Needs Children
There are specially-made car seats for children with specific medical conditions. If your child has cerebral palsy, wears a cast, has a behavioral disorder, or other specialized problem, inquire what is available.
Today's children will undoubtedly have many opportunities to travel on their own in the future, but for now they are small and very vulnerable. It is up to loving parents, family and friends to do everything possible to keep them safe and secure during their early journeys. Traffic accidents can happen in a split second, but their calamitous effects can endure for a lifetime.