Forward-facing car seats and child safety

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Last month, the Tri-Living Well blog posted an article about the importance of rear-facing car seats. Now we’ll cover forward-facing child seats and everything you need to know to keep your child safe.

How can I make my forward-facing car seat safer?

Since rear-facing car seats provide the best crash protection, many parents want to know how to make forward-facing car seats safer. An easy way to increase forward-facing car seat safety is to use the top tether strap. The top tether is a long seat belt material that connects the top part of the child seat to an anchor in the car. This additional connection makes the car seat installation more stable and prevents head injury. It usually takes less than one minute to attach.

This video demonstrates installing the top tether. There is a simulated crash showing the decreased head movement when using the tether.

Forward-facing car seats keep a child safe during collision.

Where are the top tether anchors?

All cars made after September 2002 have at least three top tether anchors. The anchors are normally located on the rear shelf of a sedan beneath the back windshield or the back of the captain’s chair in a van. Sometimes the anchors can even be on the ceiling. These anchors are specially installed and can handle hundreds of pounds of force. It is crucial to read your vehicle’s owner manual to know where they are located and not confuse them with other similar appearing anchors.

Types of car seats that can be used – forward-facing with the harness system

The two most common types of car seats installed forward-facing with the harness system are convertible car seats and combination car seats. While these two types of car seats sound the same, they are different.

  • Convertible car seats are used for both rear-facing and forward-facing with the harness. Once children outgrow this car seat in the rear-facing position, they use it forward-facing.
  • Combination seats are only used forward-facing. They are used forward-facing with the harness and as a booster seat.

Why is the harness system important?

The harness system is important because:

  • It keeps a child properly positioned, preventing a child from slouching. This is especially important if a child sleeps in the car.
  • It helps spread crash forces over the child’s body.
  • Installing the car seat with the top tether prevents head injury.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends children ride in a car seat with the harness system for as long as possible until the child reaches the maximum size limit listed in the instruction manual. Most children can ride in their forward-facing car seat until 5 to 7 years of age.

TCHC staff routinely help with car seat installations.

Tri-County Health Care has a team of car seat technicians who offer free car seat safety checks!

Tri-County Health Care offers free help!

Car seats can be confusing and Tri-County Health Care is here to help! Several nurses are certified car seat technicians and offer free car seat installation checks. Please call 218-631-7538 to schedule an appointment with a certified car seat technician. The visit takes around 30 minutes and you should bring your child along. The certified car seat technicians have found that about 50 percent of installs are incorrect. Sometimes the straps are too loose, the seat is not tight enough, or the seat is the improper size for the child.

 

Child safety survey

The link below will take you to an optional survey about child passenger safety. This survey is anonymous and takes less than five minutes to complete.

https://forms.gle/hTo3fhc7DyLHA7Mq8

About the author

Celine Durgin is a Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) medical student and attends the University of Minnesota Medical School. She is from Southeast Minnesota. Celine enjoys studying, hiking, and going to church. She plans on becoming a Family Medicine physician.


Rear-facing car seats and child safety

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My father was one of 11 children and grew up on a farm about forty miles northeast of Rochester. He would often share stories about his parents and siblings cramming into the family car, all 13 of them. At the time, cars did not have seat belts let alone child safety seats. Thankfully, nobody was ever injured in a collision. This thought runs through my head all the time, what if something did happen? My father could have easily lost his life. Thankfully vehicle safety has come along way and rear-facing car seats have been adopted across the board.

Celine's father and his siblings would often fill the family car with little concern for safety.

Which car seat is the safest?

A car seat is obviously a necessity but which one is the safest? This question is difficult to answer because the safest car seat is one that properly fits the vehicle and the child. Equally as important, the car seat needs to be used correctly every single ride. Children should ride in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible until a child outgrows their rear-facing car seat because this particular car seat is safer than a forward-facing car seat.

Why should I choose rear-facing car seats?

Most car crashes impact the front of the vehicle and about a quarter of cars are hit on the side. As the car comes abruptly to a stop, a child’s body continues to move forward. Rear-facing car seats keep a child’s head, neck, and spine straight, so it does not twist. If the spine is twisted, the child could become paralyzed or die. Rear-facing seats also provide extra protection for a toddler’s bones which are fairly soft. Astronauts blasting off into space use rear-facing seats because it is so much safer!

This link will take you to a video explaining crash force: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sg5i9YInU64

An infant seat is for very small children.

Infant car seats

The two common types of rear-facing car seats are infant seats and convertible seats. Infant car seats are made of two parts, a carrier and a base. The infant car seats have a base that stays attached to the vehicle and the carrier is easily clicked in and out of the base. Infant car seats are only used rear-facing. Children typically outgrow their infant car seat between 6 to 14 months of age.

Convertible car seats

Once an infant or toddler outgrows their rear-facing infant seat, they need a convertible car seat, which can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing with the harness. Convertible car seats are bigger and bulkier than infant seats and can be used for a longer period of time. This type of seat can typically be used until the child is three to four years old. Because of their size, once they are installed, they stay in the vehicle.

How long should my child ride rear-facing?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends children use rear-facing car seats for as long as possible or until a child outgrows their convertible car seat in the rear-facing position by reaching the size limit listed in the instruction manual. Most children do not reach this weight or height limit until they are three to four years old.

A convertible car seat is for bigger children and requires a permanent installation.

Tri-County Health Care offers free help!

Car seats can be confusing and Tri-County Health Care is here to help! Several nurses are certified car seat technicians and offer free car seat installation checks. Please call 218-631-7538 to schedule an appointment with a certified car seat technician. The visit takes around 30 minutes and you should bring your child along. The certified car seat technicians have found that about 50 percent of the installs are incorrect. Sometimes the straps are too loose, the seat is not tight enough, or the seat is the improper size for the child.

Child Safety survey

The link below will take you to an optional survey regarding child passenger safety. This survey is anonymous and takes about one minute to complete.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScqhviYfBQVoP1S8uz3rHxfBqLf7QzhNfS3o2EAwmVr4HDQCg/viewform?usp=sf_link

About the Author:

Celine Durgin is a Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) medical student and attends the University of Minnesota Medical School. She is from Southeast Minnesota. Celine enjoys studying, hiking, and going to church. She plans on becoming a Family Medicine physician.