Keeping Kids Safe
The auto industry, spurred on by child-safety experts (those kids are smart) and consumer advocates, has made great strides in adding useful safety equipment to our arsenal of protective devices. The three-point seatbelt, child-safety seat, booster seat and airbags have all made automobiles a safer place for us and our children. All of this becomes largely pointless, though, if we don’t require that our children use the safety devices provided for them and if we fail to install and use these devices properly.
Volvo has a rich history rooted in safety for both drivers and passengers, including the invention of the first three-point safety belt in 1959 and the first child booster seat in 1978, so we went to Volvo for information about how you can best keep your children safe while riding in your car. Here are recommendations from Volvo’s safety experts:
Have Children Take a Back Seat Certainly, in your life you don’t force your kids to take the proverbial back seat, but in the car, you should do nothing else. All children under the age of 12 should sit in the back seat of a vehicle, because that is where they’ll have the safest ride possible.
Look to the Rear For your precious baby, rear-facing child-safety seats are crucial, yet this important fact seems to escape many parents. Infants should be placed in rear-facing child safety seats until at least age 1, or until they weigh 20 pounds. And make certain that the seat is installed properly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three out of four child-safety seats are installed in vehicles incorrectly, often without parents realizing it. Check to see that the safety belt holds the seat tightly in place and make sure the harness is buckled snugly around your child. Some new cars, including Volvos, now offer integrated child-safety seats.
Face Forward Correctly When a child is too large for a rear-facing seat, he/she should ride in a forward-facing safety seat secured in the back seat of the vehicle via the “Latch Isofix” (an integrated child-safety device) or the seatbelt. The owners manual for the child restraint manufacturer should be consulted in installing this type of seat. Again, it is important that the child be secured tightly but comfortably into the seat.
Getting a Boost When your child has reached age 4, and at least 40 pounds, he/she should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Children at this age are not yet large enough or mature enough to use an adult safety belt, and using an adult seat belt without a booster could put them at risk. Buckling up a child without a booster seat has the potential to cause abdominal, spinal, head, facial and neck injuries, if the child is a passenger in a car crash.
Giving Your Child a Belt Most children outgrow their booster seat at age 8, or when they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. At that point they are ready for the standard adult seat belts, though they are probably not ready for dating or PG-13 movies. Ensure that the seat belt rests across the chest and not the neck, and remember to teach your kids good seat belt habits. Buckle up immediately after getting in the car and keep the safety belt on until the car is turned off, it has come to a stop, the engine has cooled and all conversation has ceased.
A Fitting Conclusion
As mentioned earlier, none of the safety equipment does much good if it is not used correctly. For example, a seat belt fits a child properly when the lap belt lies across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest. If a child isn’t large enough for the seat belt, and it hits him/her in the neck, revisit the booster seat option.
Driving Today contributing editor Luigi Fraschini writes so frequently about auto safety issues that he often wears a seat belt at his desk.