Know the ins and outs of car seat safety

The Calvert Recorder - - Community Forum - Our Opin­ion For some ex­tra help avoid­ing car seat in­stal­la­tion er­rors, the sher­iff’s of­fice of­fers free car seat check­ups by ap­point­ment on Thurs­days. For a checkup with the sher­iff’s of­fice, call 410-535-2800 to make an ap­point­ment. For more in­for­ma­tion

Ev­ery 33 sec­onds, a child un­der the age of 13 is in­volved in a ve­hi­cle crash, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Death and in­jury can be pre­vented by the proper use of car seats, boost­ers and seat belts.

In Mary­land, state law re­quires ev­ery child un­der 8 years old to ride in an ap­pro­pri­ate child re­straint (which in­cludes car seats, booster seats or other fed­er­ally ap­proved safety de­vices) un­less the child is 4 feet and 9 inches or taller. Ev­ery child from 8 to 16 years old who is not in a child re­straint must be se­cured with a ve­hi­cle seat belt. The back seat is safest for chil­dren un­der 13 years of age.

This week, dur­ing Child Pas­sen­ger Safety Week, Sept. 18- 24, the Calvert County Sher­iff’s Of­fice held a car seat checkup event in Solomons to help care­givers make sure their young­sters are as safe as can be. Dur­ing car seat checkup events and checkup ap­point­ments, both of which are of­fered free of charge, sher­iff’s of­fice staff said they dis­cover 90 per­cent of seat in­stal­la­tions done by par­ents and care­givers need some kind of mod­i­fi­ca­tion. The har­row­ing re­al­i­ties of im­prop­erly se­cur­ing chil­dren and adults alike in a ve­hi­cle were seen ear­lier this year dur­ing an April crash where six peo­ple were in­jured near White Sands, af­ter a Ford Ex­plorer rolled over in the driver’s at­tempt to avoid de­bris in the road­way. The pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing three ju­ve­niles, weren’t wear­ing seat belts and some suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries. In­cluded among those in­jured was a 5-year-old child not wear­ing a seat belt who was ejected from the ve­hi­cle and an in­fant who was in a car seat un­se­cured.

Im­proper in­stal­la­tions of car seats range from thread­ing the shoul­der straps through the wrong open­ings in the seats, to us­ing the wrong in­cline for the seat and child, to the use of af­ter­mar­ket prod­ucts that can be­come pro­jec­tiles in a crash. There’s a lot to know and re­mem­ber, and ev­ery car seat is dif­fer­ent. Both the user man­ual for the seat and the car should be re­ferred to in or­der to get the best in­stal­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff’s of­fice.

Par­ents and care­givers should also avoid pur­chas­ing used car seats, as they can’t know the full history of the seat, in­clud­ing whether it has been in a crash or had the belts washed with a harsh de­ter­gent.

With cold weather ap­proach­ing, the sher­iff’s of­fice cau­tions against buck­ling in a child while they are wear­ing a puffy coat or sweater. This would make the straps too loose in case of an ac­ci­dent. And, even though chil­dren are per­mit­ted to be in a front-fac­ing car seat af­ter the age of 1, it’s not rec­om­mended, as a 1-year-old’s spine isn’t as strong as an adult’s in a crash.

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