Car Seats aren’t the most exciting pieces of childhood equipment. They don’t keep kids entertained, amused, or even distracted. What they lack in excitement, though, they make up for in security. The right car seat, used in the right way, greatly increases your child’s chance of surviving a car crash.
In 2019, 183,00 children were injured in traffic crashes, and tragically, 1,053 kids 14 and younger died. In the US, the leading cause of death for children ages 3-14 is motor vehicle crashes. Frighteningly, almost half of all car seats are installed incorrectly.
When a LATCH is more than a latch
LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It’s an attachment system for child safety seats. Some car seats are held down using the seat belts, while some are held in place by a LATCH. All lower anchors are rated for children that weigh up to 65 pounds. If your child weighs more than that, check the manufacturer's guidelines. If you use a seat belt to install a car seat, make sure that the belt is locked into place. Check your car’s owner’s manual to learn how to lock your car’s belts. As long as they are used correctly, both LATCH systems and seat belts are equally safe, so use whichever one works best for your particular combination of seat and vehicle.
The magic of the middle
In general, the safest place to ride for all children that are younger than 13 is the back seat, and the safest section of the back seat is the middle. Most crashes are front impact, and the back seat keeps children away from both the impact zone and from airbags that are designed to protect adults. However, if you can’t get the seat installed properly in the center back seat, then it’s not the best choice. If you get a better installation in the sides of the back seat, choose that. It’s more important that the car seat is installed correctly than it is to be in the middle back seat.
Winter car seat tips
Cold weather makes getting everyone situated in their car seats extra challenging. Here are tips for when the temperature drops:
1. Don’t buckle over bulky winter clothing. In a crash, puffy coats and snowsuits immediately flatten out from the force of the impact. This leaves the straps loose and unable to keep your child secure. Instead, dress your child in thinner, more fitted, layers, and then cover them with a blanket (or put their jacket on backward) over the harness.
2. Make sure the harness is tightened. If you can pinch the strap, then it needs to be tightened so that it will be snug.
3. If possible, store the car seat in the house. This keeps it warmer, and it won’t zap their body heat when they get buckled in.
After a crash
Car seats don’t automatically have to be replaced after a minor crash. A crash is said to be a minor one if ALL the following apply:
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
- The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged.
- None of the passengers in the vehicle sustained any injuries in the crash.
- If the vehicle has airbags, the airbags did not deploy during the crash; and
- There is no visible damage to the car seat.
If it’s been in a moderate to severe crash, it’s time for a new seat, even if it appears to be fine.
For more information, watch Simple Steps to Child Passenger Safety. For further questions, ask SMC’s Certified Car Seat Technician, Christine Kunze at 218-387-2330. In Grand Portage, contact Dani Reilly at 218-475-2235.