I’m glad Jordana survived her childhood car accident, because there a many, many children who don’t.
I’ve heard it all before and it seems each generation is harder to convince than the next. Yes, I know you managed to endure a rustic childhood of riding in a wooden-paneled station wagon with the seat belts cut out and you turned out just fine but it’s pretty safe to say that your Mom wasn’t driving you to preschool at 70 miles per hour, guzzling Starbucks, and texting on her iPhone.
I’ve been a Child Passenger Safety technician for over six years now and having a child of my own has made me even more passionate about car seat safety and the new car seat recommendations. My husband likes to point out passersby on the freeway just to get my blood boiling, “Hey hun, check out that 8-year-old riding in the front seat next to us. Do you want to perform a citizen’s arrest?” You don’t know car passenger safety until it’s 90 degrees outside and you find yourself knee deep in a 2-door Dodge Neon with a hot EMS guy sorting through gum, papers and rotten popcorn shrimp trying to find enough seat belts to install three car seats across the back while mom talks on her cell phone and tries to keep her triplets from playing in traffic. True story, times 20.
I’ve seen seats strapped in with bungee cords or propped up with bricks. I’ve watched parents roll up in an Escalade with their toddler riding shot gun in a lap belt. Here’s a quick note: if you find yourself reaching for the duct tape, it’s probably time to spring for a new seat.
While anecdotally these stories are horrifyingly humorous, the implications are devastating. And if you think these parents were of a lesser socioeconomic status, you are dead wrong. More than 80% of car seats in the US are installed incorrectly (the number is probably closer to 95%), proving that ignorance is an equal opportunity offender and even I’ve gotten to the end of the driveway and noticed my child was in the seat, but not buckled in.
What surprises me the most is how much resistance I’ve encountered when educating parents, and even friends about car seat safety. I have to bite my lip every time a parent tells me how THEIR child doesn’t LIKE the car seat or how THEIR child is in the 95th percentile for height and cannot possible ride-rear-facing for fear of broken legs. As parents we do things every day that our children dislike in an effort to keep them safe but for some reason we view car seat transition as a milestone to mark in the baby blog book alongside first steps and haircuts. But safety is not a scrapbooked moment to look back on. Safety is a fluid, never-ending battle that we are obligated to bestow upon our children to the best of our abilities.
I applaud the new recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I want experts to tell me the best possible way to keep my child safe, even if it differs from what I did previously. My son’s convertible seat allows rear-facing up to 35lb which means he’ll probably be staring at the back seat of our car until he’s 4, but he’ll know nothing else. While my advice may seem prescriptive (damn you, public health!) it’s backed by evidence and tragic stories of children whose death could have been prevented. There haven’t been any cases of broken legs due to rear-facing car seat positioning and in my opinion, even if there were, a broken leg is a better than a broken neck any day.
You don’t want to shell out the precious dollar for a seat that accommodates the new guidelines (although most convertible seats on the market now come standard with high rear-facing weight limits)? You’re too busy worrying about what types of plastic might cause cancer? Maybe we should be getting our granola panties in a bunch over the fact that vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 3-14 years old. Preventable death of a child is exactly that, preventable. Keeping our children safe is our obligation as parents. It’s as simple as reading a manual and as difficult as putting your husband’s ego aside to ask for help. Just please, try to dig out some of the left over Long John Silver’s from your car before I climb in to help you.
Here are some basic tips:
-Keep your child rear-facing until 2 years old or for as long as possible.
-Keep your child in a booster until 4 feet, 9 inches tall (usually between 8 and 12 years old.)
-And grant your child the cheapest bar/bat mitzvah present on the planet – let them ride in the front seat all the way to the bank to deposit their cash, but not before.
For more information about Child Passenger Safety Visit here.
To find out more about the laws in your state click here.
For another take on car seats, read Jordana Horn rant against the new regulations.