Know the ins and outs of car seat safety
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.