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Proper fit, installation key with child safety seats | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


Safety is paramount when raising children, which is why it’s essential parents use the right car seat to protect their youngsters while traveling.

Jennifer Homan, a coalition coordinator for Safe Kids Northwest Indiana, said injury is the most common cause of death for people 1 to 44 years old.

“So, it’s something that we really need to look at across the spectrum of preventing injuries from happening,” Homan said.

Car seats are designed to reduce the chance of injury during a crash if they used correctly, said Michael Parks, a division chief/fire marshal at the Crown Point Fire Department.

Local agencies don’t recommend a specific brand of car seat, noting that all seats on the market undergo the same federal testing.

“Everybody is required to meet the same crash standards, so it doesn’t matter if the seat is $50 or $500,” Homan said.

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She said parents should select car seats for the appropriate age, weight, height and development abilities for their children.

Infant carrier seats are available with weight ratings from about 4 pounds to about 22 pounds. Convertible car seats also are available that are rated for children from about 5 pounds to around 40.

“Those are a great option because there’s a little bit more longevity in them,” Homan said.

Regardless of the type of seat used, car seats should be rear-facing as long as possible.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children remain rear facing until children are at least 2 or they meet the largest weight and height limits on the car seat.

Parks, a certified car-seat technician, said keeping children rear-facing helps protect their brain, spine and internal organs in a collision.

He also dispelled the common misconception that children can be uncomfortable in rear-facing car seats as they grow. Children tend to be flexible so they’re not constricted when facing rear. 

“They’re not uncomfortable,” Parks said.

Once children hit the appropriate age or weight and height, they can switch to  forward-facing car seats that have a five-point harness. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children should remain in their forward-facing seats until they reach the maximum height and weight for  those seats. That could be up to about 7 years old.

Booster seats used with seat belts are recommended when youngsters outgrow car seats.

“We recommend that they stay in that booster seat until they’re about 4 (feet) 9 (inches) tall,” Homan said.

Once children are tall enough, they will be properly restrained by the car’s seat belts, but they should ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old, Parks said. That eliminates risks from airbags that deploy in a crash.

When choosing a car seat, experts recommend purchasing a new one and avoiding buying used seats from unknown individuals. That eliminates  guesswork about the condition of the seat and its expiration date.

“Buckles change, technology changes, engineering changes,” Parks said.

He said expiration dates are listed on the back of seats. Many expire after about six years, but some can last around 10.

Just as important as it is to pick the right seat, parents must install them properly in their cars.

Experts suggest following the instructions provided by manufacturers and to have seats inspected by car-seat technicians.

“Car seats are confusing, they definitely are confusing,” Homan said.

For about 20 years, the Crown Point Fire Department has served as a certified car seat installation site. Parks said any Indiana resident can call the department at 219-662-3248 to schedule an appointment to have their seats examined.

He said education will be provided so adults can learn how to install the seats and make sure their children are properly secured.

“We’re not installing; we’re educating,” Parks said.

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