Do the new car safety seat recommendations affect you and your children? Find a car seat inspection site near you!
Going for a quick trip to the store or a Sunday drive or to visit Grandma’s sounds simple enough but for a multiple birth family just getting everyone out of the house and “packing” for this quick trip can seem more like a major event! There are so many, many things to consider and not the least of which is what car seats are recommended and right for your children.
One dilemma for many Higher Order Multiple birth (HOM) families is how to fit car seats in their vehicle and how to install them in the proper, safe manner. Many families (HOM and others) do not have the child restraints properly installed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) says that overall, 3 out of 4 parents do not properly use child restraints in the car. You read that right 3 out of 4!
The leading cause of death for children age 4 years and older is motor vehicle crashes. Properly used child restraints make a big difference. Each year approximately 1,400 children under the age 16 die in motor vehicle crashes; and some of those children were not wearing restraints at all (NTHSA).
In March 2011, updated recommendations were given by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help parents keep their children safe in cars. Some of the recommendations clarified previous recommendations while others increased the use of certain child safety seat until an older age.
*All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the maker of the car seat. That means your children should remain rear-facing until at least 2 years of age and even longer if the car seat allows. Since infants already should be rear facing, this recommendation should not make too much difference.
With multiples, your babies may come home under 5 lbs. Generally an infant car seat (not a convertible seat) will provide the best fit. Parents of multiples might need to find a car seat with a low weight limit as some will come home under 5 lbs. Premature infants will need to pass a car seat challenge at the hospital prior to discharge. Medical professionals will check the baby’s breathing, oxygen levels, and heart rate while sitting in a car seat. Let them know how long your drive home will be. If a baby fails the test, it will most likely be repeated in a few days. A car bed may be recommended. These take up more space than a typical infant seat and it may be impossible to place more than one in your vehicle. If your babies are coming home on different days, you may be able to use a car bed at least to get home.
*All children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car seats, should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they have reached the highest weight allowed by the maker of the car seat. A five point harness is the safest type of forward facing restraint. This should be used as long as possible, not just until the size of the child allows a lap/shoulder belt booster. Once children become preschoolers it can be tempting to take them out of the car seat. A car seat is not just for babies. It is the safest place for a young child to sit in a car. Just because a booster seat package says “ages 3 and up” it still is better, and recommended, to keep them in a 5 point harness than a belt positioning booster. Many parents agree that a typical child doesn’t mature enough to keep the shoulder/lap belt in the proper position until around age 5 -6 years. If your child is too large for a harness seat but still needs to be more restrained than a booster seat would allow, consider using a travel vest.
*All children whose weight or height is above your forward-facing car seat limit (usually 40-80 pounds) should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits properly. This may not be until your child is 12-years-old! This is an age when children go on play dates and other people drive them so look for a booster seat that is easily portable so that you can use it in any car your child rides in.
*When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap-and-shoulder seat belts for the most protection. How do you know if your child can use only the lap-and-shoulder seat belts? The lap portion of the belt should fit low across the hips. The shoulder portion should fit across the middle of the shoulder and chest when the child sits with his or her back against the seat. If the belt doesn’t fit this way, he needs to go back to the booster seat, usually until when children are 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age.
There are websites that will help you decide when you child is big enough to ride with only the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt. Remember that height and age is a general guideline and your child may need a booster seat in certain vehicles. MOST (Mothers of Supertwins) member Donna Perry writes:
“My 10-year-old is 58″ (4’10″) and still needs a booster in my full size conversion van because of the size of the seats and the angle of attachment on the shoulder belt. The recommendation is to have a child pass the 5-step test. I JUST this past weekend tried it on my children in our minivan. I had to figure out the safest way for them to ride for a road trip when we decided to take the more economical vehicle. Our state law drops the booster requirement at age 8, so legally they could ride just using the vehicle seat belt. But applying the 5-step test, only one of my 5 children passed and only in certain seating positions and my children have long legs, so could theoretically pass earlier than other children. For this trip, and probably most of this summer, my four 8-year-olds will be using booster seats.”
Most cars come equipped with a lap-and-shoulder seat belt for each passenger seat. However, there may be vehicles that don’t have a lap-and-shoulder seat belt for every seat. You may have to buy a new vehicle, install a lap-and-shoulder seat belt, or use a travel vest. Some available styles are listed here.
*All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for the most protection. If they aren’t teenagers, they need to be in the back seat.
Children with special needs may require special car seats. The AAP has some information here.
Find a Car Seat Inspection Site
If you have questions or want to make sure you have your child safety seats installed correctly visit a Car Seat Technician. You can find them on the NHSTA site and at Safe Childs USA. Seat Check has a list of inspection stations available in English and Spanish. You can also call Seat Check at 866-732-8243. During September there are many free car seat inspections across the country in consideration of National Child Passenger Safety Week.
Key points for parents of multiples:
- Shop for car infant seats with low weight limits for the best fit and greatest safety.
- Keep babies rear facing until age 2 or even longer.
- Use 5 point harness systems as long as possible to keep your child in the safest position.
- Use a booster seat until the child can appropriately sit in your vehicles seat and shoulder/lap belt system. Your older child may fit in some vehicles with only the lap/shoulder belt but need a booster seat in other vehicles.
- When purchasing, borrowing or renting a vehicle, bring your car seats and boosters to check the fit in that vehicle.
Please post your comments below and share with others what worked for you!
Car Booster Seats (download article to purchase)