Safety is something that all parents take very seriously. Some of the most preventable injuries occur from using child automobile restraints improperly. I was very fortunate recently to speak with Dr. Laura Jana regarding booster and child restraint safety. Dr Jana is passionate about child safety, as she is both a pediatrician and has three children of her own. Dr. Jana is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as a nationally certified child passenger safety instructor. She is also actively involved in promoting early childhood literacy and high-quality child care.
It became clear early in my conversation with Dr. Jana that even when you ‘think’ you are being safe, there is probably more that you can do to better protect your children. Connected with my conversation, I am doing a two part series on the child restraints, specifically the Britax Parkway SG booster seat.
Dr. Jana and I discussed some common areas of concern that parents have when transitioning toddlers into a booster style restraint. Her answers should significantly help when it is time to make that transition.
- How do parents know when it’s time to switch from a convertible car seat to a booster?
Graduate your child from a car seat to a booster seat at the last possible second. It is safest for children to stay in a 5 point restraint as long as possible. Always switch when your child has reached the upper limit of their current car seat (check your manual for weight and height guidelines). There is often overlap between the car seat limits and the introduction point for booster seats. If a child fits the minimum for a booster seat but still fits in his car seat, keep him in the car seat until he needs to transition to a booster.
- What is the best seatbelt configuration for my child? Do I need a 5-point or a shoulder strap?
Some 5 point restraints only go up to 40 pounds, but parents should look for restraints with higher weight limits (Britax goes up to 65 and even 80 pounds using the 5 point harness). Use the 5 point restraint and rear facing as long as possible. Rear facing is safest because the force will be distributed along the back of the entire body and seat, instead of the front of the body (pressure on neck and torso). Again, do it based on the design of the car seat and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
- What features should parents look for in a booster seat?
Booster seats are crash tested and tested as much as any other car seat. The belt positioner on the Britax Parkway SG will help the seat belt to stay in the correct position. It is important that the seat belt fit where the force from an impact would be applied. If the shoulder or lap belts are in the wrong place, the force will be applied to the wrong place, potentially harming the child. You should also look for side impact protection. If you have a booster seat without back and side protection, the child will not have extra defense for their head, neck, back and torso.
- What if parents have a compact car or more than one car seat that needs to fit?
This really is car and family specific. There are so many different variations to number of children, car, and any other special needs. To best determine the safest restraint arrangements for your car and family, visit http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm. This site will help you locate the nearest child safety check point.
- Should parents continue to use the booster seat after my child passes state guidelines?
State guidelines represent the bare minimum of eight years. The law of physics suggests that you should protect your child longer; up to 10-12 years depending upon weight and height (again, see your manufacturer’s guidelines).
- What information can you share about car crashes and booster seat protection (and why parents should take this into consideration when making a purchase decision)?
The most common cause of death in a child under the age of 14 is due to motor vehicle crashes. The most preventable cause is improper restraint use. Dr. Jana stressed the importance of using newer car seats with improved safety features. She likened that to replacing a ten year old computer. Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to replace a ten year old computer. Replacing old car seats is a matter of safety. New features have been designed and numerous tests have been done to protect children from vehicular accidents. Older seats may not offer enough protection. Since, many vehicular injuries result from incorrect seat belt usage; it is important to have the belt positioned correctly and also to ensure that your children do not put their belts behind their bodies.
- What other details can you share regarding the design and testing of this product that makes it unique?
Britax has its own testing center. They analyze crash tests in microseconds, and they do not change any features until they have been thoroughly tested and analyzed. There is currently no US standard for side impact crash protection. Britax is working with the government to establish side impact laws for booster seats as well as standards for head and neck protection. Britax also works with special needs families to ensure every child is safe. Dr. Jana has held Britax in high regard long before their professional relationship was established. She and her fellow doctors sought out Britax car seats for themselves because they are known as an industry leader in safety.
For more information about the Britax Parkway SG and booster seat safety visit, www.britaxusa.com.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this story next Monday, August 24th.