Summer gave us a nice break from the parental shuttle routine. Now it's time to dust off the chauffeur's cap. Before you turn the ignition switch, Momtrends thought we could all spend a moment brushing up on our car safety knowledge.
First and foremost you're going to need a good car seat. I've been road testing the Britax Frontier Combination Harness-to-Booster Car Seat for about two months. It's a huge step up from the Eddie Bauer model I had been using and I highly recommend this seat. I'd been reading a lot about side-impact crashes (According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 1 in 4 car crashes that involve children occur from the side, and these crashes result in a significantly higher fatality rate) and am sold on Britax's "True Side Impact Protection," the design transfers energy away from the child into the padded seat during a crash. Though it is undeniably heavy, the Frontier is easy to install and adjust as your child grows taller. Plus, this car seat is a sound investment, the 5-point restraint can not only be used forward-facing all the way up to 80 pounds, but can also be used as a booster seat (using the vehicle's lap-shoulder belt) up to 100 pounds. I'll save myself a purchase down the road. A sound buy at $279.99.
Q. What are a few simple things parents can do to make riding in the car safer?
A. The first one: Keep kids rear facing as long as possible. They question should be, "When do I have to switch," not "when can I.'? People think, "1 year or 20 pounds." This is not an OR. Even I was guilty of this before I became educated on how much safer children are rear-facing. Now we have convertible seats (like the Britax Diplomat Convertible Car Seat - CowmooflagBritax Diplomat Convertible Car Seat - Cowmooflagee $259.99, print shown right) that are rear facing for a child up to 35 pounds. My advice: Keep them rear facing as long as possible within the limit of the seat. This may mean 18 or 20 months as opposed to 1 year. 1 year is the bare minimum...and I don'??t know any parents that are going for the bare minimum when it comes to safety.
Q. What else are we missing when it comes to car safety?
A. One easy principle that often gets overlooked: Restrain everything in the car. Think: What would you like to be hit with from two feet away at a velocity of 15 miles an hour? I know I wouldn'??t want to be hit with a tissue box. Remember, anything in the car will continue to move at the same speed as the car was going before you hit th brakes'??that is physics. The toys the books, the hard mirrors. If these items aren'??t really well secured they are dangerous.
Q. What are the common mistakes parents make when installing a car seat?
Not getting it secure. The seat shouldn't move more than an inch. And be sure to get the harness nice and snug. No more than one finger should be able to slip under the harness strap. Be especially careful in winter. If your child is in a big puffy coat don't be tricked into thinking the coat is padding--it is slack. My rule: The kids don'??t wear the coat in the car unless its put over top of their harness straps. And always follow the height and weight recommendation of the car seat manufacturers. I'??ve seen kids whose head is 1'? over the car seat. (Dr. Jana recommends attending a car seat check up, visit Nhtsa.gov for a location near you).
Q. What changes would you like to see in legislation?
A. The laws are bare minimums. The ideal law would be based on a child's seated height from the waist up. Safekids offers a model law of 8 years, 4'?? 9'?that's a good start--I also believe in imposing fines that work.
Q.What are you looking for in a car seat?
A. One of the things that brought me to work with Britax is side impact protection. Cars are not designed to protect kids in the back seats--it's up to the car seat to diffuse the impact of a side impact crash and protect the neck and head. As a rule, deeper sides and thicker side wings (like the new Britax Boulevard) probably mean you are looking at a seat with side impact protection.
For more tips from Dr. Jana, visit her site www.drlaurajana.com