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Safety First – Infant Car Seat Safety

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 9:18 AM

From the moment you take your newborn home from the hospital to every time you get in the car to run errands, it is essential to make sure that your infant is safe, well supported and secure in his car seat. Proper seating can help greatly reduce your child’s risk for permanent injury if you were to get into an accident.

However, just because you have proper seating for your infant, doesn’t ensure that it is being properly used or was installed correctly. It is important to practice installing your new car seat and/or seek professional assistance before your infant rides in the car for the first time.

Anne Middaugh, RN, MSN, CPS Technician, Community Health Specialist at NorthShore, offers her insight on proper child safety seat installation:

  • Read both the instructions that come with the child restraint and the owner’s manual of your vehicle. The owner’s manual can be very informative as to the best place to use the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. For example, usually the best place for an infant seat is in the center of the back seat. Many vehicle manufacturers do not put LATCH points in the center seat because it is narrower than the side seats. The owner’s manual will tell parents whether they may use the side LATCH points or if they have to use the vehicle seat belt for the center position.
  • Do not use both the LATCH and seat belts for securing the car seat. Believe it or not, it is more dangerous to use both than only one. Whenever we stop fast in our vehicles, there are three stops the body goes through:
  1. The car stops.
  2. Objects inside the car keep moving until something stops them. This would be a seat belt for adults, children in belt-positioning booster seats, and the child restraint itself. If LATCH is used, then it is the restraint harness holding the child in the seat.
  3. For infants and children, if you were to use both the seat belt and the LATCH, an additional stop is added to the series. Instead of allowing for the seat belt or LATCH to “stretch” to lessen the shock of a rapid stop, the seat belt stops the child seat, the LATCH stops the seat again and the harness stops the child. It is safer to allow the LATCH or the vehicle’s seat belt to do the job alone.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend that all children be rear-facing until they are two years old or until they reach the highest weight/height allowed by the car safety seat manufacturer. At the very least, children should remain rear-facing until they are at least one year old and 20 pounds. This means that once your infant outgrows the car seat carrier, the next seat should be a convertible seat that is placed rear-facing. The child should continue to ride rear-facing until he or she is at least two years old or reaches the height/weight limits imposed by the child car seat manufacturer for rear-facing passengers.

Where did you install your child’s car seat? What resources helped you determine the best place to put it?