Author: Dr. Steven Stolz
Whether taking a plane, train or automobile, traveling with children over the holidays can be nerve-wracking. You have to worry about sunburns, bee stings, and water safety, but the travel itself may be the most dangerous part of the trip. Car accidents remain the leading cause of death for children under 12 years of age. In many cases, those deaths are preventable by the proper use of seat belts and car seats.
Among the most significant changes over the years is the recommendation that children remain in rear-facing car seats as long as possible. With a front-facing car seat, a child is thrown forward if you run into something, making the straps the only form of restraint. With rear-facing car seats, the child's entire back and delicate neck are protected by the seat.
But even the most expensive car seats offer little or no protection if they are improperly installed. Once you get a car seat, make sure you follow the instructions to the letter.
Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, you should keep him or her in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. That means that the seat belt lies across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and that the shoulder harness crosses the chest, not the neck. Children are usually 4 feet 9 inches tall before they outgrow their booster seats.
Although long trips often involve a lot of driving, most car accidents occur within five miles of the home at speeds under 25 miles an hour, so it's important to have all members of your family buckled up at all times.
New laws in Virginia encourage the use of car seats and seat belts by requiring that every child 8 and under be secured in a child safety or booster seat in a moving vehicle. It also mandates that everyone in the car use seat belts.
While the law is important, what matters most is your example. Show your kids how it's done. Always buckle up every time - before the engine starts.
Source: Tidewater Parent Magazine