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Is Your Child's Car Seat Safe?

Most parents or caregivers would never allow a child to ride in a car without using safety restraints. Today, we are more aware that failing to use such devices is not only dangerous, but can be considered a criminal offense and/or child endangerment. As a result of this increased awareness, the rate of children injured in traffic accidents has fallen steadily. Unfortunately, an ongoing safety problem is the improper use of car seats. Despite caregivers’ best intentions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that three out of four parents use child restraints incorrectly. All caregivers, therefore, can benefit from improving their knowledge of proper car seat use.

The first step to improving your child’s safety is to purchase the correct restraint system. Car and booster seats are designed specifically to meet the needs of children of certain sizes and/or ages. Due to differences in weight, muscle and bone development, an infant can require a very different safety restraint than a preschooler. When choosing a car seat, always follow a product’s guidelines for appropriate ages/weights, as well as any advice from your pediatrician. Also, if you have been in an accident where no one was injured, give thanks that your child’s car seat worked. But also say goodbye. Always purchase new car seats after an accident as the original may be damage invisible to the naked eye.

Where you place a child in their car or booster seat is also important. All children under the age of thirteen should ride in the back seat of a vehicle, with the safest location being the middle back seat. Infants under the age of one and under twenty pounds should ride in car seats which are rear-facing. Ideally, keep car seats facing this direction as long as your child’s size/age and the car seat manufacturer allows. Afterwards, use a front-facing car seat until about the age of four or to certain size guidelines. Once a child outgrows this car seat, transition to a booster seat. Booster seats are usually indicated for children between the ages of 4-8 or under the height of 4’9”. To determine when a child is ready for regular seat belts, consult not only your pediatrician, but also state law. Forty-seven states require the use of a booster seat up to varying weights and/or ages.

One of the most common and dangerous mistakes caregivers make when using a car seat is securing it incorrectly. Each car seat or booster chair can have different methods for attachment, so be certain to carefully read through the instruction manual. Otherwise, securing points are easily accidentally skipped. Purchase the correct child seat to fit your vehicles – never attempt to force a car seat to fit or engineer your own method of getting around a lack of required securing hardware. Most importantly, each time you use the car seat, double check that these securing devices are still securely locked and have not been loosened or detached.

Unfortunately, parents must also make certain their child’s restraint system has not been included in a safety recall. Sadly, many cases exist in which manufacturing defects have led to car seats failing, leading to the injury of a child. It’s important, therefore, to regularly check your car seat’s manufacturers’ website for recall announcements, or to register your purchase with the manufacturer so as to better receive these notices. If your child has been injured as the result of a defective product, contact a Chicago personal injury lawyer who can assist you.

About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyer that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.

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