Car seat safety tips: What parents need to know

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Two young children may have survived a bad crash this week, simply because they were secured in their car seats.

But more than 80 percent of child safety seats are not installed properly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  With motor vehicle accidents the number one killer of children under the age of 14, child safety seats can significantly decrease this statistic when installed properly.

"We see the weight limits, kids are too big, parents want to flip their kids a lot sooner than they should be," says Danielle Manrique of  John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital.

Here are some more tips:

How to Choose the Right Child Safety Seat

The type of seat your child needs depends on several things including your child's size and the type of vehicle you have. Below are some basic guidelines for the different types of seats on the market.

-Rear-Facing:  Infants who weigh 20 pounds before one year of age should ride in a restraint approved for higher rear-facing weights. For the best possible protection, keep infants in the back seat, rear-facing, as long as possible up to the height and weight limit of the particular seat.
-Forward-Facing: When children out grow their rear-facing seats, they should ride in a forward-facing child safety seat in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually about age 4 and 40 pounds).
-Booster Seats:A belt-positioning booster seat in the back seat is a proper restraint for children weighing 40 to 80 pounds. Until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, the booster seat offers a better fit for the adult lap and shoulder belt.

A good rule? "Keep them in the harness as long as possible,"  Manrique says. "And keep them rear-facing as long as possible."
Seat Belts

When children outgrow their booster seats (usually at age 8 or when they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall) they can use the adult seat belt in the back seat. The child must be tall enough to sit without slouching, with knees bent at the edge of the seat, with feet on the floor. The lap belt must fit low and tight across the upper thighs. The shoulder belt should rest over the shoulder and across the chest. Never put the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind his/her back.

Child Safety Seat Tips
1.    Make sure your child rides in the back seat. The back seat is generally the safest place in a crash. If your vehicle has a passenger air bag, it's essential for children 12 and younger to ride in the back.
2. Check to see that the safety belt holds the seat tightly in place. If your child safety seat can be used facing either way, use the correct belt slots for each direction. The safety belt must stay tight when securing the safety seat.
3. Make sure the harness is buckled snugly around your child. Keep the straps over your child's shoulder. The harness should be adjusted so you can slip only one finger underneath the straps at your child's chest. Place the chest clip at armpit level.
4.Register your child safety seat at  Register your child safety seat with an easy online tool that can help notify you in the event of a recall.

New Car Seat Law in AZ (established August 2, 2012)

It will require children ages 5 - 7 and shorter than 4'10" tall to ride in a vehicle in a booster seat. This new law has extended the amount of time a child must be restrained by three years than the previous law.

The new law is aimed to reduce the amount of fatalities among children in our state. It is scary to think about, but the reality is that in Arizona, seven out of nine children between ages 5 and 7 who died in a vehicle crash in 2009 were not properly restrained in a booster seat, according to Arizona Department of Health Services.

Here are some important tips about car seats that parents need to know about:

(The following are required by Arizona State Law)
1. All people riding in the front seat MUST wear a seatbelt regardless of age.
2. All children under the age of 5 years MUST be in a child restraint (car seat).
3. Infants from birth until 1 year old AND less than 20 pounds MUST be positioned in a reclining infant car seat facing backwards.
4. Toddlers from 1 to 5 years AND 20 to 40 pounds MUST be positioned in an upright toddler car seat facing forwards or backwards.

(The following are recommended, but not required by Arizona State Law)

5. Infants are safest in the car when facing backwards for as long as possible. Your child can safely face backwards as long as his/her head is 1 inch below the top of the car seat and there is room for his/her legs.
6. Move your child to a larger car seat before they reach the maximum weight limit. Testing reveals that the mounting clamps can fail in an accident when the child nears the weight limit. If your child reaches the weight maximum for the infant car seat before age 1, he/she must continue to face backwards in the bigger toddler seat at least until after the first birthday.
7. Children from 40-80 lbs. and under 4'9" should be in a booster seat. Automobile accidents are the #1 cause of death among 5 to 8 year olds. They also have a 58 percent greater risk of injury if they are only wearing a seat belt compared to a booster seat.
8. All children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat. Never place a rear facing car seat in the front seat if the air bag is activated. Severe injury or death can result.
9. Never reuse a car seat after an accident. Car seats should be replaced every 3-5 years since the Arizona sun destroys the plastic. Never buy or borrow a used car seat for your child unless you are sure of the seat's history and age.
10. Never drive anywhere for any distance with unrestrained passengers. Never allow children to unbuckle their belts - even for a moment. Never drive with children in the back of a pickup truck.