Healthy Families, a program of CARE, and Adventist Health partnered to offer a class on car seat safety, held at Adventist Health Nov. 7. Certified child passenger safety instructor, Brenda Tevis, from Legacy Health, gave an hour-long presentation. Car seat checks followed after.

In her presentation, Tevis said car crashes are the number one cause of death in children from ages five to 19. She added that the reason there are so many deaths in older children is that middle to high school students are less likely to wear seat belts.

According to her data, 74 to 90 percent of car seats or booster seats are misused. Car seats reduce the risk of infants being killed in car crashes by 71 percent. Car seats reduce the risk of toddlers being killed in car crashes by 54 percent.

“Just because we think we are using them correctly, doesn’t mean we necessarily are,” Tevis said of car seat and booster seat misuse.

Tevis confirmed that Oregon law states that a child must ride in a rear facing car safety seat until they are two years old. They must ride in a 5-point harness care safety seat until they are at least 40 pounds. To get out of a booster seat, the kid needs to be eight years old or four foot nine. Most eight-year-olds are not that tall.

“I encourage you to keep your kids in booster seats until they are at least four foot nine,” Tevis said.

Tevis said in Washington, there is no age to get out of booster seat, just the height requirement.

Healthy Families doesn’t recommend any specific brand of car seat, but “the best car seat for your kids fits the child’s age, height, weight, and developmental level,” Tevis said.

The car seat should also fit the vehicle and can be used correctly every time. Tevis said not all car seats and vehicles are compatible.

Tevis said most people think the middle seat is the safest position for children, but with the right car seat, children are protected in any of the back seats. Once a child is born, they should ride in a rear-facing seat until they are about three years old. They can also move to a forward-facing car seat from ages one to seven.

Booster seats are best for children ages four to 12, depending on height and weight, and can be moved to belts from ages eight to 13 and older.

Rear-facing car seats

A rear-facing car seats cradles the head, neck, and spine in a crash and requires a specific recline angle. It is installed with seat belt or lower anchors and has a harness and handle. The harness needs to be at or just below the shoulders.

“They need to be at or below,” Tevis said of the harness.

You can adjust the straps in the back. If you can’t pinch the webbing at the shoulders, it means it is tight enough.

“If you can pinch webbing, it’s too loose,” Tevis said.

Tevis said to check clips right between the armpits and only use accessories that come with the seat. There are infant rear-facing seats, convertible that changes from rear-facing to forward-facing to the booster seat. Tevis added to never put a rear-facing seat in front of an airbag.

“Just because they are getting tall, doesn’t mean that they should be changed to forward-facing,” Tevis said of children sitting with crossed legs or being able to kick the seat.

Forward-facing seats

Forward-facing seats are installed with a seat belt or lower anchors. Click with the fat side up. There should be less than an inch of movement at the belt path. Tevis recommended use of the tether with this type of car seat. People can go to their vehicle manufacturer to get a tether installed in their car. The harness should be at or just above the child’s shoulders.

“Typically, the forward-facing are a combination of a forward-facing and booster seat,” Tevis said.

Booster seats

A kid has to be 40 pounds to be moved to a booster seat. A booster seat boosts a child up to fit the adult seat belt. They can be high back or backless. If it is backless, it has to have a headrest in the back. They should be used with a lap belt and shoulder seat belt. Booster seats cannot be used with lap seat belts. Tevis said some kids are nervous to get out of booster seats because they don’t have a spot to rest their head.

Seat Belts

Tevis said children are ready to move into seat belts when they are able to sit up without slouching, can keep their back against the vehicle seat back, and their knees naturally bend at the edge of the seat. The shoulder belt should always lay across the front of the body. If put under the arm, the shoulder belt could cause damage to the ribs in the event of an accident.

Things to Know

Tevis said children should not wear puffy coats while in a car seat.

“Take the coat off the kiddo and put them in the car seat nice and snug and put the coat on them backwards, or have a car blanket for them,” Tevis said.

Tevis said not to put seat protectors under the car seat to protect the car’s seats. The only exception is if the car seat manufacturer makes seat protectors. Britax makes car seats with seat protectors that have been crash-tested.

Tevis said not to use non-regulated products. No swaddling, unless it is after the fact. Keep it simple and use only what comes with the seat. Receiving blankets are the only exception.

When it comes to used car seats, Tevis said to know the history first. She recommended not to buy from Craigslist. She recommends buying from family or a friend if purchasing used. Find out how the person washed the car seat.

There is also a specific section in the owner’s manual about how to clean your car seat. Don’t iron or wash the harness. You can wash it with a rag, however.

You can take a car seat on an airplane. The car seat is the safest place for a child on the plane. Seat belts on planes are for turbulence, so car seats will be a safe alternative for those too young to wear a seat belt alone.

Car seats expire after six years unless stated otherwise. The sticker is usually on the bottom of the seat. On the subject of recalls, Tevis said recalls don’t necessarily mean you cannot use the seat. It is usually something minor, like a belt, that can be replaced by the car seat manufacturer.

Car seat instruction manuals tell different heights and weights for seats. Tevis said to use the stickers when you can.

Helpful Websites

https://www.safercar.gov/ for recall information

https://www.safekids.org/ for injury prevention

https://www.nsc.org/ the National Safety Council

https://cert.safekids.org/ to find a nationally certified child passenger safety technician near you

Your car seat’s manufacturer’s website

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