Stories about: car seats

Properly installed car seats save lives. Is your child’s seat secure?

Motor vehicle injuries are one the leading causes of death among children in the United States. But many of these deaths could be prevented. Studies show that placing children in age- and size-appropriate car and booster seats can reduce serious and fatal car injuries by more than half. But remember, having the right car seat alone isn’t always enough—parents must make sure it has been installed correctly to fully protect the children who use them. 

Steven and Charles Novak

When Justine Novak brought her 3-year-old son Steven to a local bike helmet fitting and safety seminar, she though it’d be a nice way to spend an afternoon and double-check her son’s helmet. She had no idea that information she learned there would eventually save his life, and the life of his 1-year-old brother Charles.

The safety seminar was put on by the Injury Prevention Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, at the request of one of Justine’s neighbors. That morning Barbara DiGirolamo, MEd, an injury prevention specialist with the program, went to Justine’s neighborhood to check the helmets of all children in attendance to make sure they were the appropriate size and shape, and that they fit correctly. She also looked them over to ensure each was still in good, working condition because even a single crash can damage a helmet to the point where it’s no longer useful. Studies show that a child with an old, damaged or poor-fitting helmet is nearly twice as likely to sustain a brain injury in a bicycle accident.

After all the helmets were tested and adjusted to fit perfectly, DiGirolamo set up a bike obstacle course for the children, then handed out safety pamphlets to parents and offered them safety tips on a number of topics. Knowing she’d soon be in the market for new car seats because both Steven and Charles were outgrowing theirs, Justine asked DiGirolamo if she had any recommendations. She suggested Justine buy the seats directly through the Injury Prevention Program, which sells top-of-the-line car seats at cost, and then have a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) install them right into the vehicle. (If you prefer to buy a seat from another vendor, or already own a seat and just want to make sure it’s installed correctly, our safety technicians will assist you, free of charge.)

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Should my child still be using a booster seat?

Flickr/ Neeta Lind

Right around the time he turned 7, Jameson Mannix started dreading the ride to school. That was the age he realized he was the only boy in his class still using a booster seat. When he complained, his mother, Rebekah Mannix, MD, MPH, of Boston Children’s Division of Emergency Medicine, explained that without a booster seat the seat belt wouldn’t fit him correctly because his seat belt rested on his throat and stomach instead of lying across his hips and chest. In the event of a crash, she told him, the belt could damage his intestines and spine, which is very dangerous.

But Jameson, like most kids his age, was far more concerned with “fitting in” than a well-fitting seatbelt.

“No matter how much we discussed it, Jameson kept going back to the fact that he was the only one in his class that had to use a booster seat,” Mannix remembers. “I told him that in Massachusetts there was a law requiring kids under 8 years old or 4 feet, 9 inches to use a booster seat, which meant he technically HAD to use one. That resonated with him a little, but he still fought it almost every morning.”

To help drive home the point, Mannix began researching data on the effectiveness of booster seats and booster seat laws on deaths and injuries related to car accidents, in hopes of strengthening her case for Jameson that booster seat laws for children his age existed for a reason. As she scanned the available data she found plenty of studies linking booster seats to decreased fatalities and injuries, but noticed that laws stating how old or tall children needed to be before they could legally travel without a booster changed from state to state.

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Are you sure you installed your car seat correctly?

There have been times, when I’ve been trying to install a car seat for one of my kids, when I’ve wished I had an engineering degree instead of a medical degree.

I mean, honestly. Each one is different. The instructions don’t always make sense. The pictures don’t seem to correlate with the seat—or my car. There always seems to be a strap I can’t figure out how to adjust—or how to use at all. When I finally figure out how to put the seat belt through, it always seems to end up too loose—or too short. And once I think I have it right and put the kid in, either the straps are swimming on him—or they are so tight I can’t buckle them.

And this all seems to happen when I’m running late.

So I wasn’t even vaguely surprised when Safe Kids USA released a study showing that thousands of parents not only struggle when it comes to installing car seats, but do it wrong.

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Stricter rules for ATV safety

Lois Lee, MD, MPH
Lois Lee, MD, MPH

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 16 not operate All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), many children still ride them—and some are killed or seriously hurt. Lois Lee, MD, MPH, who specializes in pediatric emergency medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, spoke out yesterday in support of a Massachusetts bill that would raise the legal age requirement to drive an ATV. Current laws mandate that a child as young as 10 can ride an ATV with adult supervision, but the new bill would increase the minimum ATV driving age to 14.

Click here to see Lee discussing ATV safety for kids on Channel 5 News.

Lee’s support of stricter age restrictions on ATV operational laws isn’t new. Click here to read a 2009 Thrive post, where Lee and David Mooney, MD, MPH, talked about the dangers of younger children driving ATVs.

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