It’s shocking but true: a child is involved in a car accident once every 33 seconds.
It’s essential for you to know how to keep your child safe from injury (including neck and back pain) when you’re out on the road. It all starts with safely installing the appropriate car seat; here’s how to make sure you’re doing it correctly.
How To Choose the Right Child Safety Seat
There are many seat options on the market. Which one is right for you? Use these general guidelines to assist with your selection:
- Infant rear-facing. This car seat is best for children who are less than a year old. They feature a harness strap system and cradle design to protect your child’s neck and spine in the event of a crash.
- Child rear-facing. Ideal for children 1-3 years of age, your child will sit in a rear-facing position until he’s reached the maximum height or weight maximum recommended by the manufacturer.
- Front-facing. When your child is between 4 and 7 years old or has outgrown the height and weight maximum of a rear-facing seat, they’ll move to a front-facing seat. While many parents may question if a front-facing seat is necessary, with its tether strap system, it’s significantly safer than any “grown-up” seatbelt.
- Booster seat. Once your child is between 8 and 12 years of age or has outgrown the height and weight maximum of a front-facing seat, a booster seat will add extra height to ensure a standard seat belt fits your child safely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also provides a convenient interactive tool to help you choose the best car seat for your child’s age, weight, and height.
Car Seat Installation Tips
Feeling a little lost after you’ve taken the new car seat out of the box? Just follow the tips below.
- Never guess – about anything. Always take the time to read any necessary instructions until you clearly understand how to install the car seat securely.
- Always place the car seat in the back seat. This is the safest location in the car for a child to ride. In most states, it’s required by law.
- Consult your vehicle owner’s manual. Your car may have lower anchors built right into the seats to attach a safety seat. Older cars often don’t have these, which means you’ll need to use the seat belt to secure the car seat.
- Make sure your car seat is secured tightly. Once you’ve installed the safety seat using either the seat belt or lower anchors, quickly pull it side-to-side, then back and forth. The seat shouldn’t move more than one inch in any direction.
- Be sure the base of your car seat is level. This will prevent your child’s head from jerking forward. Most seats will have indicators on the side to help you with this.
- Double-check the tether strap. For added safety, forward-facing seats usually have an extra strap at the top. Confirm the tether strap is tight enough to prevent head movement in the event of a crash.
Place Your Child Safely In The Seat
For both rear and front-facing car seats with a harness system:
- Remove any bulky, layered clothing.
- Make sure your child’s back side is tight against the seat. Help them avoid arching or slouching when placing them in the seat.
- Ensure that straps are flat against your child, removing any knots or twists. Straps should fit snug, but not too tight.
- Double-check that the chest clip is level with your child’s armpits.
- Connect shoulder straps to the seat at or directly below your child’s shoulders.
Have Your Work Inspected By Professionals
For something as important as child safety, take advantage of the NHTSA’s inspection location finder to help you quickly find an inspection facility near you.
Even a child in a perfectly-installed safety seat can be injured in the event of a car accident. It’s a common mistake to believe that a child in a car seat is somehow invulnerable. While proper safety seat installation protects children from being thrown around the car or thrust into the seat in front of them, children may still be injured. Parents seek out chiropractic care for themselves after an accident, not realizing that their child may also be suffering the same injuries and discomfort.
Often, a child is unable to communicate neck or back pain or overall discomfort. Instead, whiplash or other injuries show up as irritability, restlessness, night terrors, loss of appetite, change in bowel movements or being very clingy. If you suspect your child may have suffered injury from an accident, it’s important to call for a chiropractic exam.
Though treatment plans are customized, chiropractic care often uses specific, gentle chiropractic adjustments to help restore your child’s spinal function. Getting your child examined after an accident not only eases the pain but minimizes the risk for chronic conditions to develop, such as osteoarthritis and premature disc degeneration. When in doubt, schedule an examination online.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.