I wrote a blog some time back, happily announcing that both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had issued new “recommendations” regarding child safety when riding in automobiles. Since that time, some things have really changed. It’s nice to see that people are really listening and that we are constantly evolving when it comes to child safety issues. Some schools have even installed seat belts in school buses to provide better safety for kids.

It had been proven that small children are safest in rear-facing car seats until age 2 (yes, two…no longer one). Although this has not changed and children are only required to remain facing backwards until age one, other changes have been implemented. One thing I thought would be problematic about this recommendation, if the rear-facing child’s legs extend beyond the seat, their legs would be pinched between the car seat and the bottom end of the car seat. Not all children grow at the same rate. Convertible car seats address these issues. Like the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat. This seat provides 5” of extra leg room to keep your baby safely and comfortably seated in the rear-facing position longer. And the seat also transitions to a forward-facing harnessed seat for toddlers. It also has a feature called the Simply Safe™ Adjust which allows you to adjust the height of the harness and headrest as your child grows.

The study behind the rear-facing child is, while in a front-facing car seat, a crash can jerk a child’s head, causing spinal cord injuries, neck injuries or head injuries. A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body. One year olds are five times less likely to be injured in a crash if they are in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing seat.

Both organizations say older children who’ve outgrown front-facing car seats should ride in booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits them. If the seat does not fit them properly in the booster seat, they need to be in a booster seat with a 5-point harness restraint. If their little bodies are too small, they can slip in an accident, causing life threatening injuries when their bodies impact on the adult seat belt. The movement allows increased momentum, crushing organs against the skeleton and the seat belt. There is nothing for the body to impact on when you use a harness. Booster seats help position adult seat belts properly on children’s smaller frames. Children usually can graduate from a booster seat when their height reaches 4’ 9”. In Texas, our age and height requirements are 8 years old or 4’ 9” (whichever comes first). In other words, your 80 year old 4’ 1” Grandmother doesn’t need to be in a booster seat. But the back seat would be the safest place for a fragile little old lady (or a child).

Both groups say that children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat because they still have forming bones and poorly fitting seat belts can cause abdominal and spine injuries in a crash. Not to mention the dangers of the air bags. I had no problem enforcing that one, since my daughter rode in the back seat until she was 17 (not for safety sake, she just didn’t want to be seen with me).

Again, these are only recommendations and not state or federal laws. But, these recommendations are based on evidence from crashes. Just do your best to keep your Mini Me safe.

Until Next week…

Daun Thompson
Child Safety For Kids – Comedy Defensive Driving