Any expectant mother knows there is a lot to think about when preparing for baby.
Thanks to the Lebanon Police Department, one aspect of safety planning has been made easy. Officer Allison Daniel and Terminal Agency Coordinator Dawna Gutierrez now have their National Child Passenger Safety Certification and are here to help both new mothers and mother of small children make sure they have their seats properly installed to fit their children’s needs.
Gutierrez said that according to Tennessee’s Child Passenger Restraint Law, children under 1 year of age, or any child, weighing 20 pounds or less, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system in rear facing position, meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards. If the child safety seat has a higher rear-facing weight rating, it may be continued to be used in a rear-facing position as long as the child’s weight and height permits.
Gutierrez said that studies show that the longer a child can be in a rear-facing car seat, the safer they are in the event of a crash.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends leaving your child in a rear facing position to a minimum of 2 years old, preferably to the height and weight limits if your seat,” she said. “As infants and small children, their vertebrae are not developed enough to sustain a crash.”
Studies in Sweden, where children ride in rear-facing seats up to 4 years, have showed an improvement in child fatality numbers. “They have almost zero child fatality,” Gutierrez added.
Choosing the right seat is only one issue. Once a seat, and position, is chosen, the parent must make sure it works properly. Common issues are the tightness of harness straps, placement of the car seat base and level of the breast clip.
“Check your child’s strap placement on a regular basis. In a rear facing position, the straps must always be below the shoulders. In a forward facing position, the harness straps must always be above the shoulders.” she said. The breast clip should be parallel with the child’s underarms.
Gutierrez continued that mothers should invest in new car seats, if possible.
“It isn’t a really good idea to buy a used car seat,” she said, referencing online marketplaces such as Craig’s List. “It is one thing if you know the person you are buying it from and now the history of the seat, but if you buy it from someone you don’t know then you are not aware if the seat has been involved in a crash or if they have had any problems with it.”
For now, Gutierrez and Daniel will be available to work with parents on an individual basis, but are planning regular drive-through checkups and classes in the future.
“Things have changed since my kids were little. Now that I am a new grandmother I have a vested interest in it,” Gutierrez said.
Daniel added that safety shouldn't stop when the seat leaves the car. “Please do not place infant car seats on the tops of shopping carts. There are warnings on most carts and in your seat manual. Place the infant seat inside the shopping car. There have been cases where the car seat has fallen off and babies have died. You could also damage the seat and affect how it connects to the base, or performs in an accident.”
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.