Summer is here and between juggling vacations, camps and practices, parents, guardians and caregivers are busy getting children from point A to point B.
Each day, hundreds of Daviess County children are strapped into car seats before heading off to their destinations. Each day, dozens of those children are put in a car seat, a device meant to protect them, that is expired, damaged or the incorrect size.
Melissa Smith, Daviess Community Hospital’s certified child passenger seat safety technician and instructor, wants to help parents, guardians and caregivers ensure the safety of their children.
“We see a lot of car seats that are not properly installed,” said Smith, who said car seat inspections are conducted free of charge at the hospital but an appointment must be scheduled. “We check all the car seats of babies going home from DCH, but we want to see more come back to check to see when to age up to the next car seat or booster seat.”
Smith said the hospital offers certified child passenger seat safety technician classes, and once those are complete, a free car seat clinic is always held to give the newly trained technicians a chance to practice his or her skills. Most of those clinics turn up more improperly installed car seats than anything.
“We see a lot of the same mistakes over again. About three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly or are expired or broken,” said Smith, who said technicians show adults the proper way to install the devices designed to keep children safe. “We see a lot of people turn children to forward facing too soon. The new thing now is to keep children rear facing for as long as possible because it’s safer.”
Smith said car seats have a life expectancy of about six years. After that, the plastic often becomes brittle and could break, injuring the child.
“When the plastic becomes old, it bends and snaps. New plastic will just bend,” she said. “It’s also important to make sure your child’s seat is not on recall.”
Smith said the car seats should be inspected on a regular basis, especially if the child is on the verge of switching into a new seat or if there are multiple children in car seats.
“It’s important for us to make sure they are in the right type of seat and that it’s properly installed. With parents of multiple children, we want to make sure all the booster seats are in the right spots and the tethers are properly arranged,” said Smith who said those wishing to have car seats inspected can do so by contacting DCH.
“A lot of parents don’t realize that all booster seats need a headrest, and kids should still be using the booster seats until they are 10 to 12 years old or 4’9”,” she said, adding that in 2017, 3,640 children ages 0 to 14 in Indiana were injured in car crashes. That year, Daviess County was in the 0.0 to 1.4 per 1,000 for injury rate.
While the number of children in the Hoosier State dropped to 3,133 in 2018, the numbers continued to climb in Daviess County.
“Daviess County was in the 2.2 to 2.8 range so statewide, child injury involvement decreased but Daviess County increased,” said Smith who said the numbers were according to statistics on the ICJI website. “We encourage caregivers of children under the age of 13 to make an appointment to ensure their children are traveling as safe as possible.”
Smith said those interested in becoming certified car seat technicians will have several opportunities over the next few months to do so.
“We have car seat safety technician classes in June, August and October,” said Smith, adding those wanting to become certified car seat technicians can call DCH to register. “Each class is three days and you must attend each session to become certified. We will hold car seat clinics after the final session of each class.”
Those car seats clinics will be held at the hospital on June 27, Aug. 20 and Oct. 28 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the hospital. Another clinic will be held in September during Child Passenger Seat Safety Week.
With many heading out on family vacations, Smith is also quick to point out that infants should not be left in car seats for extended periods of time, even while traveling.
“It’s not good for babies to be in that position for long periods of time,” she said, adding parents should also pay close attention to make sure children are not left in hot vehicles. “There have already been 10 heat stroke deaths in the U.S. this year.”
Smith said those deaths occurred when the outside temperature was between 69 and 95 degrees and a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s.
“The kiddos ranged from 4 months to 4 years old,” she said, adding the inside of a car can heat up more than 20 degrees in a matter of minutes. “Make sure your kiddos are out of the car. If there’s a change of schedule and someone else is taking them somewhere, give that person a call and make sure the kids are where they need to be.”
Special car seats that now plug in to the vehicle, Smith said, are available and can be beneficial in keeping children safe from falling victim to heat stroke.
“The car seats have a sensor that alerts you if your child has unhooked anything and it chimes to let you know when the car is shut off that your child is there,” said Smith, who said several car seats also now come with apps that alert parents and caregivers if the temperature inside the car is too hot or too cold for children. “The apps will also alert you if your child has been left in the car. If you don’t respond to the prompts that pop up on your phone, it will notify your emergency contacts.”
Smith said cars should always be locked, even when in the driveway, to keep children from playing inside.
“Kids can get into a vehicle or a trunk to play if it’s not locked,” she said, adding children can also get entangled in the seatbelts and be injured.
Those wanting to schedule an appointment for an inspection or to learn more about the certification class, contact Smith at 812-254-8620 ext. 1359.
Types of booster and car seats
There are many choices, but while there are hundreds of options, they fall into three main types:
Rear-facing for children under 2 years old: rear-facing only, rear-facing convertible, rear-facing 3-in-1 Forward-facing with harness and top tether for children over 2 years old: forward-facing convertible car seat, forward-facing only, combination car seat, forward-facing 3-in-1 Booster seats for children who are too heavy or too tall for a car seat with a harness: high back booster seat, backless belt positioning booster, combination car seat without harness Most children are between 8 and 12 years old before an adult seat belt will fit them correctly. Do the seat belt fit test to see when your child is ready.
The five step test for car seats and booster seats
If you answer “no” to any of these questions, your child needs to be in a car seat or booster seat
Does he sit all the way back against the car’s seat?
• Do his knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat?
• Does the lap belt naturally rest below his belly, touching the top of his thighs?
• Is the shoulder belt centered across his shoulder and chest?
• Can he stay seated like this for the whole trip?