Car seats work best only when properly installed

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Modern passenger vehicles are a marvel of safety engineering, from antilock braking to multiple variable-force deployment airbags, stability control and collision warning radar and built-in radios to seek help when the car's been in a collision.

Most cars, however, are safe only for adults without restraints designed to keep children in place.

That's the point of National Child Passenger Safety Week this week.

Even if careful parents do use car seats, it takes special knowledge to make sure car seats are installed correctly, and many of them aren't. Still, the lives of 244 children under age 5 were saved during collisions in 2008 because they were secured in a safety seat.

According to AAA Nebraska, the most common problems are:

* Not using a safety seat. Safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers, and older children using a booster seat have a 59 percent better chance of avoiding injury. Any child under 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches needs some kind of safety seat in addition to a seat belt.

* Not reading safety seat instructions. Eight out of 10 car seats are installed incorrectly.

* Using restraints for older children too soon. Infants should remain rear-facing until they reach the upper weight limit of their rear-facing car seat -- usually around 30-35 pounds.

* Installing safety seats too loosely. A properly installed safety seat should not move more than an inch in any direction. Parents should use either the vehicle's seat belt or LATCH system to secure the safety seat, but not both.

* Adjusting seat harnesses incorrectly. Safety seat harnesses should always be snug and lie flat without twists. Harnesses should be at or below the child's shoulders when rear facing and at or above the shoulders when forward-facing in order to hold the child's body upright and against the seat.

* Keeping loose items in the vehicle. Any loose items in a vehicle, such as purses, laptop bags or umbrellas can become dangerous projectiles in a crash or sudden stop and cause severe injury to a child, other passengers or the driver.

More information is available at the Web site. Or, even better, take part in the Child Passenger Safety Check-Up set for Saturday at Community Hospital and co-sponsored by Safe Kids-Platte Valley.

It is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and certified child passenger safety technicians will check children's car seats during the event, which will be on the northeast corner of Community Hospital's campus at 1301 East H. Participants should use the East 15th Street entrance, and in case of rain, the event will move to one of the emergency ambulance bays.

The service is free and no appointment is necessary. For more information, contact Susan Harris-Broomfield, Community Hospital Outreach Coordinator, (308) 344-8550.

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