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:
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.
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
St. Christopher's Hospital for Children
3601 A. Street, Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia Fire Department – Engine 22
3270 Comly Road, Philadelphia, PA
Middletown Fire Department
425 S. New Middletown Road, Media, PA
Montgomery Hose and Steam Fire Station
201 W. Freedley Street, Norristown, PA
Battalion 1 Fire Station
325 Stump Road, Montgomeryville, PA
Limerick Fire Station
390 West Ridge Pike, Limerick, PA
Abington Memorial Hospital
1200 Old York Road, Abington, PA
Plymouth Fire Company
1323 Colwell Lane, Conshohocken, PA
Flourtown Fire Company
1526 Bethlehem Pike, Flourtown, PA