Each year hundreds of young children are killed in car crashes and thousands more are injured seriously enough to go to the emergency room. Using car safety seats and seat belts correctly is the best way to prevent this from happening to your child. Following are common questions and answers regarding car seat safety from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The following are tips and recommendations from the:
Q: What if my baby is premature?
Common questions about car safety seats
A: Use a car safety seat without a shield harness. Shields often are too high and too far from the body to fit correctly. A small baby's face could hit a shield in a crash. While still in the hospital, your baby should be observed in her car safety seat to make sure the reclined position does not cause low heart rate, low oxygen, or breathing problems. If your baby needs to lie flat during travel, use a crash-tested car bed. If possible, an adult should ride in the back seat next to your baby to watch her closely.
Q: What if my baby weighs more than 20 pounds but is not 1 year of age yet?
A: Many babies reach 20 pounds well before their first birthday. However, just because your baby weighs more than 20 pounds does not make him ready to ride forward-facing. Luckily, there are many convertible seats that can be used rear-facing for children weighing more than 20 pounds. See the product listing at the end of this brochure to see which seats have these higher weight limits.
Q: What if my child has special health care needs?
A: Children with special health problems may need other restraint systems. Talk about this with your pediatrician. Easter Seals, Inc, has car seat safety programs for children with special health care needs in the following states: Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
More information is available from Easter Seals, Inc, at 800/221-6827. You also can learn more by calling the Automotive Safety Program at 317/274-2977 or by visiting their Web site at www.preventinjury.org.
For more information and a list of car safety seats available for children with special needs, see the AAP brochure, "Safe Transportation of Children with Special Needs: A Guide for Families."
Q: What if my car has side air bags?
A: Side air bags improve safety for adults in side impact crashes. However, children who are seated near a side air bag can be at risk for serious injury. Read your vehicle owner's manual for recommendations that apply to your vehicle.
Q: What if my car only has lap belts in the back seat?
A: Lap belts work fine with infant-only, convertible, and forward-facing car safety seats. They cannot be used with belt-positioning booster seats, and they are not the safest way to buckle older children. If your car only has lap belts, use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness and higher weight limits. Other options are
- Check with a car dealer or the manufacturer of your car to see if shoulder belts can be installed.
- Use a travel vest (some can be used with lap belts).
- Consider buying another car with lap/shoulder belts in the back seat.
Q: What if I drive more children than can be buckled safely in the back seat?
A: Avoid this situation, especially if your car has passenger air bags. However, in an emergency, place the child most likely to sit in the proper forward-facing position in the front seat, with the vehicle seat moved as far back as possible. A child in a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness may be the best choice because a child who is in a booster seat or using a regular seat belt can easily move out of position and be at greater risk for injuries from the air bag.
Q: Can I use a car safety seat on an airplane?
A: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the AAP recommend that when flying, children be securely fastened in car safety seats until 4 years of age, then be secured with the airplane seat belts. This will help keep them safe during takeoff and landing or in case of turbulence. Most infant, convertible, and forward-facing seats are certified to be used on air planes. Booster seats and travel vests are not. Check the label on your car safety seat and call the airline before you travel to be sure your seat meets current FAA regulations.
Q: Can I use a car safety seat that was in a crash?
A: If the car safety seat was in a moderate or severe crash, it needs to be replaced. If the crash was minor, the seat does not automatically need to be replaced. A crash is considered minor if all of the following are true:
- The vehicle could be driven away from the crash.
- The vehicle door closest to the car safety seat was not damaged.
- No one in the vehicle was injured.
- The air bags did not go off.
- You can't see any damage to the car safety seat.
If you are unsure, call the manufacturer of the seat.
Q: What about using a used car safety seat?
A: Do not use a car safety seat that
- Is too old. Look on the label for the date it was made. Do not use seats that are more than 10 years old. Some manufacturers recommend that car safety seats only be used for 5 to 6 years. Check with the manufacturer to find out how long the company recommends using their seat.
- Has any cracks in the frame of the seat.
- Does not have a label with the date of manufacture and model number. Without these, you cannot check on recalls.
- Does not come with instructions. You need them to know how to use the seat. You can get a copy of the instruction manual by contacting the manufacturer.
- Is missing parts. Used car safety seats often come without important parts. Check with the manufacturer to make sure you can get the right parts.
- Is a shield booster. Although shield boosters may meet current safety standards for use by children from 30 to 40 pounds, the AAP does not recommend their use. Major injuries have occurred to children in shield boosters. The only time shield boosters should be used is if the shield is removed and the seat is used with a lap/shoulder belt as a belt-positioning booster.
- Was recalled. You can find out by calling the manufacturer or contacting the following:
-- Auto Safety Hot Line 888/DASH-2-DOT (888/327-4236), from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm ET, Monday through Friday.
-- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
If the seat has been recalled, be sure to follow the instructions to fix it or to get the parts you need. You also may get a registration card for future recall notices from the hot line.
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