Car Seats – How Safe Are They?

All parents know about the importance of car seats, whether it’s a short jaunt to the grocery store or a three hour drive to visit relatives – but how safe is it?

The BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation states that for your child’s safety you should consider the following guidelines:
• Infants, birth to one year of age and weighing up to 20 pounds, require a rear-facing convertible seat
• Toddlers, over one year of age and weighing under 40 pounds, need a forward-facing convertible seat
• Young Children, under 9 years and weighing more than 40 pounds, need a seat belt-positioning booster seat in a forward-facing seat position
• Any children ages 13 and younger should ride in the backseat at all times and can be out of a booster if they are at least 9 years of age, 4’9” and 80 pounds

Along with these guidelines, it is important to have your child’s car seat installed correctly. LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system is one of the latest attempts to decrease the problems related to improperly installed car seats. All new automobiles are required to have a special attachment that secures the tether strap found on child restraint systems. The purpose of the adjustable straps is to secure the seat to the rear window shelf, floor or back of the vehicle seat. The strap will keep the top of the car seat from moving too far forward, reducing the possibility of head injuries during crashes. As well there is a lower attachment bar with a matching feature on a car seat (buckle, hook or connector) that snaps onto the lower anchor bar of the vehicle.

Despite all the latest changes to car seat safety, injuries caused by motor vehicle collisions remain the leading cause of death and disabling injuries in children 2 to 14. Surprisingly, 75% of accidents occur within 25 miles of home and 60% occur at speed limits of 40mph or less. The Sports Utility Vehicle is growing in popularity as a family car – it may be that parents believe that they are safer because they are bigger. Paediatrics magazine recently published a study that proves this theory wrong. In any type of auto accident, SUVs are four times more likely to roll over than any other passenger car with a roll over crash increasing the likelihood of serious injury by 229%. Even though this type of car is bigger and heavier, the increased tendency to roll after impact means that an SUV actually increases the risk of serious childhood injury substantially.

It’s important to realize that even a child in a safety seat can be injured. They’re not being thrown around the car or into the back of the seat in front of them, but they are still suffering from the impact. Their body is held to the car by the restraint but their head and arms are thrown forward, which can cause mild to severe damage to their spine and nervous system. Many mistakenly believe that a child in a car seat is somehow invulnerable. Generally, if a child doesn’t complain of pain, it may not occur to a paediatrician or parent that any injury was sustained during the collision. Due to their inability to communicate their pain or discomfort, symptoms such as irritability, lethargy, restlessness, night terrors, poor focus and/or appetite, change in bowel movements and being very clingy, may be the only signs that an infant or child has suffered an injury. Have your child assessed by a chiropractor following an accident to minimize any possible injury sustained and prevent future health issues.

In the Lower Mainland, BCAA has trained car seat technicians who can inspect your seat for proper installation (call 1.877.247.5551 to schedule an appointment). They can provide you with information to help you properly install the car seat, how to secure your child in the seat and when to upgrade the seat for your growing child. After all, their motto rings true: Securing your child properly in their safety seat is one of the best hugs you can give!

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About the author

Dr. Stephanie Bonn

Dr. Stephanie Bonn is dedicated to optimizing health and wellness through chiropractic care. Her interest in family practice began with a degree in Science and Physical & Health Education at Queen’s University, where she completed a thesis on prenatal fitness. After receiving her Doctor of Chiropractic from Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, she continued to study prenatal, postnatal and pediatric care with the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. From newborn to adolescence to adulthood, Dr. Stephanie uses techniques specific to the individual to bring balance to the spine. Spinal alignment helps the body grow, develop and heal naturally as well as adapt to unavoidable everyday stresses and strains. She has an integrative and holistic approach, incorporating exercise and nutritional recommendations for optimal health. Dr. Stephanie has recently opened an integrative health clinic Coco Chiropractic Wellness in Yaletown, focusing on family and women's health and offers chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, lactation consulting, holistic nutritional consulting and doula care.