When it comes to installing a child safety seat, parents should never hesitate to seek help from an expert.
“With so many different cars and so many differently shaped car seats, parents get confused. It explains why four out of five child safety seats are improperly installed,” said Debbie Riccardi, DNP, the director of Community Health Nursing at Cohen Children’s Medical Center.
“When in doubt, parents should check with a child passenger safety technician.”
As part of national Child Passenger Safety Week, Cohen Children’s -- located at 269-01 76th Avenue in New Hyde Park -- is providing free car seat installation instruction Tuesday, 10 a.m. to noon, in the lobby of the medical center and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday in Cohen Children’s general pediatrics area.
To further assist parents, the medical center offers monthly car seat safety checks in the visitor parking garage. Additional car seat fitting stations are located across Long Island and New York City.
“At Children’s, I see too many children come to us after car crashes with injuries that we know were preventable,” Dr. Riccardi said. “By instructing parents and caregivers on the proper measures for keeping children safe in a vehicle, we know we can prevent injury.
“Child Passenger Safety Week helps raise awareness in the community that child passenger safety is still an important issue that needs to stay on the forefront,” she added.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children aged 12 and under in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, proper car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants aged under 1 by 71% and to toddlers, aged 1 to 4, by 54%. For children 4 to 8, booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45%, when compared with seat belt use alone, the CDC reports.
One of the more common child passenger safety mistakes parents and caregivers make is moving an infant or toddler “from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing position too soon,” Riccardi said. The CDC recommend tots aged 2 and under remain in a rear-facing seat. Not doing so puts the children at significantly greater risk for neck and head injuries, Riccardi said.
Many children are shifted too quickly from a booster seat into seat belt use alone, Riccardi said. A child passenger should be big enough for the lap section of the seatbelt to rest on his or her lap and not the child’s abdomen. In such instances, children can suffer severe soft tissue damage or slip out of the seat belt in even a minor car wreck.
CDC Guidelines for Parents and Caregivers
The CDC established the following child passenger safety guidelines for parents and caregivers.
Birth up to Age 2: Rear-facing car seat.
For the best possible protection, infants and children should be buckled in a rear-facing car seat, in the back seat, until age 2 or when they reach the upper weight or height limits of their particular seat.
Age 2 up to at least age 5: Forward-facing car seat.
When children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should be buckled in a forward-facing car seat, in the back seat, until at least age 5 or when they reach the upper weight or height limit of their particular seat.
Age 5 up until seat belts fit properly: Booster seat.
Once children outgrow their forward-facing seat, (by reaching the upper height or weight limit of their seat), they should be buckled in a belt positioning booster seat until seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck).
Once Seat Belts Fit Properly without a Booster Seat: Seat Belt
The recommended height for proper seat belt fit is 57 inches tall. For the best possible protection, keep children properly buckled in the back seat.
Install and Use Car & Booster Seats Properly
Install and use car seats and booster seats according to the seat’s owner’s manual or get help installing them from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
Don't Seat Children in Front of an Airbag
Buckle all children aged 12 and under in the back seat. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an air bag.
Seat Children in the Middle of the Back Seat
Buckle children in the middle of the back seat when possible, because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.