Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Are Your Kids Safe?
And the reasons we did it were pretty stupid.
We turned Patrick from a rear facing seat to a forward facing seat just about 1 month after his first birthday. He barely weighed the required "20 pounds" and we would have turned in on his 1st birthday if he had already weighed enough. At least we were listening to that part.
What we did ignore was that he was still tiny and petite. He was still safer facing backwards.
All for the sake of us having an easier time checking on him, looking at him, talking to him. All for the sake of him getting to see the world as we drove down the road rather than the back of the seat and a glimpse of whatever we had passed by already. Because you know...he needs to see where we are going at 1 year of age.
Although we, like most parents, are more relaxed with our second child than with our first in most ways, this area is an exception. Abigail is currently 2 years and almost 3 months old. And she is still facing rear. She has outgrown her infant seat and is in a convertible seat, but she still stares at the back of the car and anything that we can see after we have driven by it already.
No, it's not convenient for us to see her. No, it isn't comfortable to not be able to push the front passenger seat back further because of the cumbersome car seat in the back (although the passenger seat is a safe distance from the airbag).
But she's safer. And because she's never faced forwards, she doesn't know the difference.
Our little barely 25 pound two-year old is happy as she is and we are pleased that she is safe.
This week (September 18 - 24) is Child Passenger Safety Week. Although you can still find sources that tell you that turning children forward in their seats is okay at 1 year, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their recommendation back in April to extend that milestone until the 2-year mark. All agree, even those who think earlier is "okay", that rear facing is safer and therefore should be done as long as possible.
A study by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health asked parents of children 7 to 48 months old about their use of rear-facing car seats. The study found that 73 percent of parents switched their child from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat before the age of two. Thirty percent of parents turned their child's seat to face forward before their child reached one year of age. (cited) Now, I can't blame all of the parents who turned them around before 2 because all of the people polled did not have the new guidelines at the time their children were between 1 and 2. However, the 30% that turned them around earlier...that just makes me shudder.
So...now we all know. Leave them backwards until they are at least 2 and longer if you will, as they will be safest this way. It's okay if their legs are longer than their seat...that will not hurt them.
Also - did you know that car seats expire? Yep...the plastic they are made up can start to weaken with age. Some manufacturers put an expiration date on the back of the seat, but if you can't find one, use 5 years from the date of manufacture as a rule. And if you can't find that date on the seat, consider about 4 years from the time you bought it new. I really would not recommend buying one used for this and other reasons (in case they were compromised in an accident at any time).
Another fuzzy area for most parents is booster seats. 47 states (plus DC) require them and all have their own age/weight requirement. In the end, know your older kids are safer until a seat beat fits snugly across their thighs (not stomach) and across their should and chest (not their face or neck). And always, always, always in the back seat. Until they are 13. And after 13, still keep them there until they physically take on the shape and size of an adult.
Did you know that the NHTSA found that 3 out of 4 kids are not as secure in the car as they should be because their car seats are not being used correctly. I know...I thought I was smart too and could figure it out, but all of those darn things are different! Don't guess. Don't hope. Check it out. This Saturday (September 24) is National Seat Check Saturday where a number of local resources in YOUR community will be available to check out your car seat for free. You can use this locator to find nearby car seat inspection stations on National Seat Check Saturday and throughout the year.
And lastly, the Child Passenger Safety Twitter account (@childseatsafety) will be hosting a live Twitter Q&A today, September 21 at 2 p.m. ET. Safety experts from the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be available to offer essential information on car seats and how to safely travel with children of all ages in cars. Just use the hashtag #CPSweek to follow along and ask your questions.
I'm not trying to preach at you. I'm not perfect, as I plainly admitted to you in the beginning of this post. I don't want you to have to learn the hard way. I don't want you to have any regrets. I don't want you to be ignorant as we were so long ago.