Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Is your child in the wrong car seat?

Think your child is ready to "graduate" to the next level of car-seat safety? Maybe not. Here are the new rules and some assistance in keeping your kid safe.

Is your child in the wrong car seat?

A real-world check of how 21,476 kids were riding in cars -- performed over three years by researchers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who watched cars at fast-food restaurants, gas stations and childcare centers -- found problems. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
A real-world check of how 21,476 kids were riding in cars -- performed over three years by researchers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who watched cars at fast-food restaurants, gas stations and childcare centers -- found problems. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Think your child is ready to “graduate” to the next level of car-seat safety? Maybe not. New rules call for keeping babies and toddlers in rear-facing seats longer and keeping older kids in booster seats ‘til they’re 4-feet-nine-inches tall. Yet despite plenty of public-awareness campaigns, a new study says many kids are riding in unsafe seats - or without any real safety restraints.

A real-world check of how 21,476 kids were riding in cars - performed over three years by researchers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who watched cars at fast-food restaurants, gas stations and childcare centers - found problems. Pediatricians from Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, say that less than 17 percent of little kids remained in rear-facing seats after age one, fewer than 2 percent used a booster seat after age seven and many over age six sat in the front seat.

How should kids ride in cars? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Rear-facing car seats at least until the age of two
  • Forward-facing car seats with a five-point harness for as long as possible until the child is the maximum weight and height suggested by the manufacturer of the seat
  • Booster seats until an adult seat belt fits properly, which is when a child is at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall (the average height of an 11 year old)
  • Riding in the back seat until the age of 13 - and wearing a lap and shoulder belt when a child is old enough to ride in the back, or the front, seat.

Getting your child into the right car seat, booster seat or spot in the car could save his or her life. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children older than three years in the U.S. and send more than 140,000 children to the emergency room each year. But car-safety recommendations seem to change frequently. When our own child seemed ready to move out of a booster seat several years ago, the only clue we had that it wasn’t time was a highway billboard announcing that height recommendations for booster-seat use had been extended. It can also be tough simply getting a car seat fastened securely in the car -- no fun when a toddler is waiting to jump in, or you’re trying to make adjustments while holding a baby in your arms.

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There’s expert help nearby. Find a car-seat safety inspection in your area by using the online locater service of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  You can find more info about checks in South Jersey counties on the state’s Department of Law and Public Safety website and info about weekly checks and car seat fitting appointments offered by Delaware’s Office of Highway Safety here

In the Philadelphia area, monthly car seat checks are held at hospitals, fire stations and even an auto body shop, via a program sponsored by the Kohl's Injury Prevention Program, the Safe Kids Buckle Up Program and Safe Kids Southeastern Pennsylvania Coalition. Trained safety technicians will review your safety-seat set-up and teach parents how to properly install child safety seats. Locations and hours are:

South Philadelphia (near Bella Vista/Southwark neighborhoods)

Nigro Auto Body

939-41 Washington Avenue, Philadelphia, PA

  • First Tuesday of every month, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Please call 215-985-2534 to schedule an appointment

Northeast Philadelphia

St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children

3601 A. Street, Philadelphia, PA

  • First Monday of every month, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Please call 215-590-5437 to schedule an appointment

Philadelphia Fire Department – Engine 22

3270 Comly Road, Philadelphia, PA

  • Third Monday of every month, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Please call 215-590-5437 to schedule an appointment

Delaware County

Middletown Fire Department

425 S. New Middletown Road, Media, PA

  • Third Thursday of every month, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Please call 215-590-5437 to schedule an appointment

Montgomery County

Montgomery Hose and Steam Fire Station

201 W. Freedley Street, Norristown, PA

  • Second Wednesday of every month, 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Please call 610-278-5119 to schedule an appointment

Battalion 1 Fire Station

325 Stump Road, Montgomeryville, PA

  • Fourth Thursday of every month, 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Please call 610-278-5119 to schedule an appointment

Limerick Fire Station

390 West Ridge Pike, Limerick, PA

  • Third Friday of every month, 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Please call 610-278-5119 to schedule an appointment

Abington Memorial Hospital

1200 Old York Road, Abington, PA

  • Third Saturday of every month, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Please call 215-590-5437 to schedule an appointment

Plymouth Fire Company

1323 Colwell Lane, Conshohocken, PA

  • Second and fourth Wednesday of every month, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Please call 215-590-5437 to schedule an appointment

Flourtown Fire Company

1526 Bethlehem Pike, Flourtown, PA

  • First Wednesday of every month, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Please call 215-590-5437 to schedule an appointment 
About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Sarah Levin Allen, Ph.D., CBIS Assistant Professor of Psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Temple University Hospital
Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Christopher C. Chang, MD, PhD, MBA, FAAAAI, FACAAI Associate Professor of Medicine in division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology at UC Davis
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist of The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Gary A. Emmett, M.D., F.A.A.P Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Mario Cruz, M.D. Pediatrician, Associate Director of Pediatric Residency Program at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children
Magee DeFelice, M.D. Division Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Chief of Pediatric Emergency Services at Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Crozer-Keystone Health System
Jessica Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D Associate Professor in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Registered Dietitian at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Jeanette Trella, Pharm.D Managing Director at The Poison Control Center at CHOP
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D., ABPP Director of Integrated Health Care for American Psychological Association
Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D. Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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