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Sunday Mornings with Rania: Hands Off The Car Seats!

I’m winding down a week in Boston with family. One conversation that always flares up when I am home is the car seat, booster seat and seatbelt issue. Here’s how it always goes:

My youngest: “I don’t want to be in the car seat, I want to look at the window; it is so pretty outside.”

My mother: “Take her out, you and your sister were not in car seats at her age, let her look around! I will hold her!”

Me: “Mom, driving around in the late 70s cannot be compared to driving around now. There were no cell phones leading to distracted drivers back then. In today’s world, car accidents are the #1 killer of children (and we can’t take that statistic lightly. Side note – were there even car seats back then?”

The reality is that car seats and booster seats are two of the most important items you can have in your car if your children of are a certain age. But parents beware, placing your child in the wrong one at the wrong age could be a lethal mistake. Statistics show that 80-90 percent of car seats are installed or used incorrectly. Before you pack the car up with kids and bags and summer fun travel, make sure to read and share this quick reminder:

Car seat: Rear-facing – from birth until 2 years old or until your child reaches the upper weight limit of their rear-facing convertible seat (usually around 35 pounds).

Car seat: Front or Forward-facing – your little one has reached the upper weight or height limit of their rear-facing convertible seat so turn their seat into the forward position with the harness until they reach the maximum weight of 40-65 pounds or height restrictions of their particular seat.

Booster seat: Your child is ready for a booster seat when they have outgrown the internal harness or height limitation of a forward-facing child safety seat. These kids are 40-80 pounds but under 4’9. They are 4-8 years old and at least 35†tall. Usually, these kids cannot sit properly on vehicle seat with their back against the seat, their knees bending at the edge of the seat cushion without slouching. They also don’t fit properly in the vehicle belt system. A backless belt-positioning booster may be used in vehicles which have a head restraint present for your child. High-back boosters can be used in vehicles with or without head restraints present.

Note to parents: The biggest issue with this phase is that your kids are old enough here to have an opinion and express it. Many of these 8-year-olds will say they are too big to sit in “car seat.” Remind them “booster seats” are very different than car seats. Booster seats are about two things only: Safety and allowing them to see out the window clearly. Car seats are about safety and keeping little squirmy kids in place. It’s very different!

Lap and Shoulder Belts: Children who have outgrown the booster seat can sit in the regular vehicle seats with shoulder belts are in their glory. These kids, 9 -13, must remember two things: they still must always use the middle or back row and keep in mind that the regular safety belts they are using were designed for 165-pound male adults so there is a vulnerability there.

Front seat: The coveted passenger seat should only be used for children 13 and older. Even in the front, these kids must always wear seat belts!

While your child will love it, each time they “graduate” to the next seat level, there is a reduction in their protection. That said, as a mom of three, there is something very special about seeing their graduation / progression in the rear-view mirror as you buzz them around town, isn’t there? We love our kids and go through so much, at every stage, to ensure their safety. Through it all, they can still look out the window and they are always comfortable. So Mom, I love you, respect you and adore you but hands off my children’s car seats! The ’70s are long-gone!

Posted by Rania Mankarious on 11 Jun 2017

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Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston