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Safety-Conscious and Kid-Centric: Keep Your Children Safe in Your Car This Holiday Season

Here in the Harrisburg area, most of us really do go over the river and through the woods to get to our family’s house during the holiday season. With snow, ice, and an increased number of impaired drivers on the road, driving can be extra treacherous this time of year. This year, take an extra moment to ensure that your young children are safe before hitting the open road by ensuring that they are correctly fitted for their car seat.

Why Are Car Seats So Important?

While that may seem like a silly question to ask—after all, we all know that children are safer in car seats—it often shocks people to find out just how effective properly fitted and installed car seats are in preventing childhood car accident injury or death.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released the following sobering information about car seats:

  • Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 through 13 years old.
  • Car seats have saved the lives of nearly 10,000 children under the age of five between 1975 and 2010.
  • Three out of four car seats are not used correctly.

Having a car seat alone is not enough to protect your child from injury. Car seats must be properly installed and fitted, to both your vehicle and your child, in order to ensure the maximum possible protection in the event of a crash.

There are three primary types of car seats: rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats. The proper seat is determined by your child’s height and weight and will vary slightly according to the manufacturer. Generally, children under the age of one should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight for that configuration, which is typically around one or two years of age. In a wreck, the seat will move with and support the baby to protect their neck and back.

A forward-facing car seat will usually have a five-point harness that will restrain the child at the strongest points of their body. These seats are also fitted according to height and weight, but typically children will remain in this type of car seat throughout their toddler years and through the age of five or older, depending on the individual seat’s limitations.

From there, a child will move to a booster seat. This is a critical phase that many parents miss, as they assume that the child is large enough to use the car’s seat belt. The problem is that there are several years between the forward-facing car seat and using the seat belt “as is” where the child is too small for a seat belt to be effective—in fact, it could be dangerous in a crash, as it would put pressure on the child’s neck and organs. The booster seat “boosts” the child into a position where the seat belt will fit as it fits a full-sized adult.

Buckle up This Holiday Season—There’s No Excuse!

Many car seat manufacturers are beginning to design car seats that can evolve through all three car seat phases, eliminating the need to buy separate pieces. Whether you go with an all-in-one design or simply get the right seat for each stage, protecting your child in the event of a crash is critical. Remember, many fire departments and police stations will help you install your seat properly, so pay them a visit before you get rolling to Grandmother’s house!

If you found this article helpful, feel free to share it with your friends on Facebook—keep our small passengers safe this holiday!