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The Ultimate Guide to Car Seats

Did you know motor vehicle crashes are the #1 cause of death due to unintentional injury in children aged 1-14? A car seat, when installed correctly, can reduce the risk of injury or death by as much as 74%. Unfortunately, many children are not using a car seat appropriate for their size and/or the car seat is not installed correctly.

Your guide to car seats

Purchasing a new car seat can be confusing. There are many to choose from and prices vary. The most expensive seat is not always the safest. The best car seat is one that fits in the vehicle securely and is easy to adjust. Vehicle seats are different. Some car seats have a better fit than others. Make sure you can return the car seat if it does not fit properly. Register the car seat so the company can alert you about recalls.

There is no need to rush a child into the next stage of the car seat. It is safest to keep the child in the current car seat until he has outgrown the height or weight limit of the seat. Check the car seat manufacturer’s instruction booklet for information about height and weight limits.

The importance of car seats

A child is safest in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends rear-facing until the age of two or when the child no longer meets the rear-facing requirements of the car seat. When an infant outgrows the infant car seat, purchase a car seat that can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing. A rear-facing car seat provides better protection for the child’s head, neck, and spine.

When the child is ready to move to a forward-facing car seat, the tether strap must be used. The tether decreases the amount a child’s head can move forward in a collision, reducing the risk of injury. The vehicle owner’s manual shows the correct anchor location to use for attaching the tether. Check in the car seat manual for the correct route for the seat belt or Universal Anchorage System (UAS). The path is different depending on whether the seat is rear-facing or forward-facing. Use the seat belt or the UAS to secure the car seat in the vehicle unless the car seat manual states both can be used.

Remember: car seats have expiry dates!  It is dangerous to use one that is past the expiry date. The expiry date may be found on the plastic shell of the seat or in the owner’s manual.

For more information check out the MLHU website at www.healthunit.com/car-seat-safety or call the Health Unit to speak to a Public Health Nurse at 519-663-5317

Catherine Winspear RN PHN for the Middlesex-London Community Early Years Partnership

The Community Early Years Partnership disseminates information about and promotes optimal infant and early childhood development to healthcare providers, community partners, parents and caregivers.


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