Buckle up: What you need to know about car seat safety

Julie Bitely

| 3 min read

Amy Horn, an Injury Prevention Assistant with Safe Kids, checks seat belt fit with a Life EMS Camp 911 camper at the Walker Fire Station.
Amy Horn, an Injury Prevention Assistant with Safe Kids, checks seat belt fit with a Life EMS Camp 911 camper at the Walker Fire Station.
If you have a child in a car seat, proper installation and buckling can be the difference between life and death.
Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in children younger than 14. Properly installed rear-facing car seats reduce the chance of injury and death by nearly 70 percent. However, it’s estimated that four out of five car seats aren’t correctly installed.
Jennifer Hoekstra is a Coordinator for the Greater Grand Rapids area Safe Kids, run out of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. The most common mistakes she sees are loose harness straps and seats.
“We don’t wake up in the morning and plan to get in a car accident,” she said. “Taking the extra few minutes and being committed to proper installation of the car seat and the child can make all the difference.”
Hoekstra said the best car seat is one that fits in your car, fits your child and is easy for you to use. She said many larger chain stores allow parents to try car seats before buying them. Price, brand, and style really don’t matter.
“Any car seat that’s on the market has met the same standards and will provide safe travel for your baby,” she said.
Never buy a car seat from a garage sale as it could have been involved in a crash or be missing parts. Car seats expire after six years, another good reason to purchase new. It’s okay to use a secondhand seat if you know its full history and trust the original owner.
Avoid bulky coats. As tempting as they may be during Michigan winters, the seat’s straps need to fit as snug to the body as possible to work properly. Hoekstra said parents can still put mittens and hats on. Coats can go on backwards once they’re strapped in and blankets can be used for warmth.
“We truly want to limit the layers between the child and the straps of the car seat,” she said.
Don’t forget older kids when it comes to sitting safely. Michigan law doesn’t require booster seats, but Safe Kids urges parents to use them until children reach a height of 4’9”. They help the car’s seat belt fit properly, with the lap belt hitting the hip bones and the shoulder belt hitting the chest and collar bone, not the neck. If not positioned properly, seat belts can cause serious internal injuries in the event of an accident.
Make sure your kids are safe in their seats at every age. Here are some helpful guidelines from Safe Kids and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Just click on your child’s age or weight and height range.
Check to see if your child’s seat has been recalled and watch video of Hoekstra showing you how to put three kids of different ages safely in their seats.

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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