Car, booster seat safety urged

Sep 24 2011 - 10:57pm

Every day, at least three children under the age of 9 are injured in a car accident and wind up in a Utah hospital emergency rooms, health officials said.

That equates to almost 1,100 children every year who are injured.

And car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 14 and younger nationwide.

But the use of car seats and booster seats, when installed properly, are reducing the number of injuries and fatalities, said Elon Jensen, community health information center coordinator at McKay-Dee Hospital.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that infants should be in a rear-facing car seat until the age of 2 or until they weigh 30 pounds or more.

Infants "are five times less likely to die if they are seating in a rear-facing car seat," said Janet Brooks, child advocacy manager with Primary Children's Medical Center.

There is "too much head snap" when an infant sits facing forward during a crash, said Jensen.

McKay-Dee Hospital and other agencies, including Davis County Health Department offer free car seat checks every weekday, year-round, with appointments. A complete car seat check takes about 15 minutes and that could save a life, Jensen said.

Sometimes the car seat has become too small as a child matures, said Chris Bateman, community health educator with Davis County Health Department. A certified car seat technician can help if the seat is too small or needs adjustments.

The technician can also determine if the parent needs to use the tethers on the back of a car seat or if a seat belt will work to keep the car seat secure.

Almost 70 percent of all car seats are improperly installed and that increases the risk of a child getting injured, Bateman said.

Too often, a parent forgets to check to make sure the car seat or booster seat is secure. "And they go around a corner or end up in a crash, and the child gets hurt," Jensen said.

Utah law requires children to be in car seats or booster seats until the age of 8 or they reach the height of 4 feet 9 inches tall, whichever comes first.

But parents are encouraged to keep their children if they are smaller than 4 feet 9 inches in a booster seat because the seat belts are not designed for small bodies, health officials said.

Parents should clean their car of unnecessary objects, such as books and hard toys, which could turn into projectiles in a crash, Jensen said.

"If your child needs a toy, give them a soft, plush toy, not those giant three-pound hard toys," Jensen said.

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