By: Stephanie Duhon

This week, September 16-22, 2012, is designated as National Child Passenger Safety Week. Did you know 4 out of 5 car seats are installed or used incorrectly? What an alarming and sobering statistic.

There are certain legal requirements everyone must meet when it comes to children traveling in a vehicle:

*All children must ride in a safety seat (car seat or booster) until age 8 or a height of 4’9”

*Infants must remain rear facing until age 1 and 20 pounds (both, not one or the other).

It’s important to note; however, these are the minimum requirements for remaining rear facing. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rear facing until at least age 2 or when the child outgrows the height or weight limit for rear facing in their particular seat.

A 2007 study in the journal “Injury Prevention,” found children under 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Another study found rear facing to be FIVE TIMES safer than forward facing. What a compelling argument for keeping a child rear facing for as long as possible. According to carseat.org, one reason rear facing is safer is due to an infant’s heavy head and fragile neck. When a baby or toddler is forward facing, their head is thrust forward during a crash. This can stretch the neck and there is a risk of tearing the spinal cord, which can lead to paralyzation or even death. When the child is rear facing, their head is more cushioned during impact.

The good news is more and more car seat manufacturers are making seats that can be rear-facing for longer. Many infant seats are good up to 30 pounds and several convertible car seats (which can face rear or forward) are good rear-facing up to 40 or 45 pounds. And safety experts say it’s ok for a child’s feet to touch the seat back or legs to bend when rear facing. While they may look uncomfortable, they are used to this position and are much safer.

There are two ways to install a car seat: with the seat belt or with the newer LATCH system. Be sure to carefully follow all instructions when installing the car seat. Click here for more details on installing a car seat. Want to make sure your car seat is installed correctly? There are many locations in Houston where you can get the car seat installation checked. Visit this link for details on locations and times: http://www.safekidsgreaterhouston.org/cssis.html

Additional Tips:

*After purchasing a car seat, send in the registration card to ensure you receive updates on recalls.

*Never use a car seat that has been in a crash.

*Never put a rear facing infant in front of an air bag.

*Experts recommended not using safety seats older than 5 years.

Additional sources:

womanshospital.com/home/car-seat-safety.dot

texaschildrens.org