Jennifer Hoekstra is the Safe Kids Program Coordinator at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. She is our guest blogger this week.
How often do you drive in a car with your child? If you're like most parents, each and every day you leave your home and go somewhere together. And if you're like most parents with young children, chances are your child's car seat is improperly installed-four out of five car seats are.
As the Safe Kids Program Coordinator for Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, one of the things I do is coordinate safety inspections at our four different car seat inspection stations. We carefully track data at these sites, and have found that locally, the misuse rate of car seats is 94.6 percent. Let's work together to change this statistic. The biggest errors we see in Kent County include:
1. Loose harness straps
2. Loose installation
3. The chest clip being placed too low
Do you think you might be part of the 94 percent? You have a chance to find out. Join me on Saturday, October 23 at Kohl's Rivertown in Grandville between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for a car seat check up event. The event is sponsored by the Kohl's Cares for Kids Program. Kohl's has supported Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and Safe Kids over the past 10 years and sponsors the local program, Birth to Booster: "Kohl's Kids Ride Safe at Every Stage".
Throughout the week, Kohl's Rivertown and Helen DeVos Children's Hospital will be offering:
"Ask the Expert"
Although the actual event is just one day, the week is dedicated to educating the community about child passenger safety. Our team of certified child passenger safety experts will be available just outside the mall entrance to Kohl's. Our schedule includes:
October 18 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m
October 19 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
October 20 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
October 21 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Booster seat voucher
Parents who visit us during the week and who have a child that fits the appropriate booster seat range (must be between 40 and 100 pounds and shorter than 4'9") can receive a voucher for a free booster seat. This voucher can be redeemed on Saturday at the event at Kohl's Rivertown. Your child must be with you on Saturday at the event to receive your free booster seat.
Monthly Car Safety Inspections Offered at Four Sites
If you aren't able to make it on Saturday, I hope you will take advantage of our car seat safety inspection sites-they are free and offered monthly at four convenient locations. When you come with your child and car seat, we will show you how to properly adjust the straps, secure your child and lock the car seat into your vehicle.
Choosing and Using Your Car Seat
In the meantime, I want to make sure your child is as safe as possible now. Therefore, here are some tips and suggestions.
When choosing a car seat:
Choose a seat based on how well it fits in your car and how easy it is to use. If a car seat is easier to use, you are more likely to use it correctly.
Look closely at the front adjustment. Can you tighten and loosen the harness straps from the front of the car seat? I prefer seats where you don't have to take the car seat out of the car to adjust the straps.
Look for multiple harness slots. This allows a wider variety of children to use the seat, and also can accommodate your child as he or she grows.
When using the car seat you have purchased:
Know that what the law says, and what we consider best practices (and encourage through our Safe Kids program) are not necessarily the same. Best practices are the practices that will give your child the best chance to be safe if he or she were ever involved in a crash. Consider the following:
The law says children can turn forward facing once they reach 1 year and 20 pounds. However, the best practice is to keep kids rear facing as long as possible - to the maximum limits of each car seat (usually 30-35 lbs.). Kids are five times safer rear facing than they are forward facing and rear-facing seats are 71 percent effective in reducing infant death.
The law says children under 4 must remain in the back seat. The best practice, however, is that children under 13 stay in the back seat. This is because the seat belt does not usually fit them properly and their body structures are not fully developed or equipped to take the impact of a frontal airbag if it deploys.
The law says kids can stop using a booster once they are 8 years old or 4'9" (57"). But the best practice is to use a booster seat until the child is 4'9" and the seat belt fits the child correctly. Note that children ages 4-8 riding in boosters are 45 percent less likely to sustain injury than those riding using just the vehicle seat belt.
Take that extra step and use your car seat as safely as possible.
- Jennifer Hoekstra