Family, Community and AAP Implore Parents to Follow Weight and “Top of the Head” Guidelines for Car Seat Safety

April 14, 2009

"Toddlers are more than five times safer when they ride in a rear-facing car seat than a front-facing car seat, according to a recent study."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) works ceaselessly to educate parents about car seat safety. On Saturday, April 4, AAP News highlighted a recently published study about the increased safety for children in rear-facing car seats (available at http://aapnews.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/30/4/12-a). The study, titled “Car safety seats for children: rear facing for best protection,” advised that toddlers stay in rear-facing car seats as long as their weight is in line with the car seat’s guidelines and the top of the child’s head does not exceed the back of the car seat.

“The study cites that toddlers are more than five times safer when they ride in a rear-facing car seat than a front-facing car seat,” said Elizabeth Murray, M.D., pediatrician in Emergency Medicine at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

This is promising news for Jim Peralta, a grandfather who has been advocating keeping children in rear-facing car seats longer since his 18-month-old grandson was involved in a car crash last August. Joel was in a forward-facing car seat, which was recommended for children of his age and weight. Joel was rushed to Golisano Children’s Hospital, where he was treated for a broken neck. Peralta has since created an informational Web site (www.joelsjourney.org) about car seat safety for parents.

“Since all of my kids are grown, I didn’t give much thought to car seat safety before the crash,” Peralta said, “but hundreds of people from all over the world have contacted me with their concerns about forward-facing car seats since I posted Joel’s Web site.”

Local community programs are also working hard to educate parents about proper car seat safety. Monroe County’s Office of Traffic Safety, the Rochester Fire Department and Injury Free Coalition for Kids have joined forces to hold child safety seat fitting stations monthly for parents, which can be arranged by appointment.

“In New York State, 90 percent of child safety seats are installed incorrectly, so our fitting station is open to anyone in the community,” said Jean Triest, Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician for the Office of Traffic Safety and an instructor at one of the fitting stations. The car seat fitting stations also work closely with public assistance agencies to aid low-income families.

Participants are educated on how to be sure all occupants are properly restrained in a vehicle, regardless of age. Triest explained that a majority of each appointment is spent on educating the parent on how to properly secure the child in the child safety seat and then how to install the child safety seat in the vehicle. “Our mission is to be sure the parent can do the installation on their own. We want them to be the person who clicks the safety belt and tightens the seat in the vehicle,” Triest said.

There are 14 agencies in Monroe County who offer child safety seat fitting stations. For a list of these agencies, visit http://www.monroecounty.gov/safety-childsafety.php.To learn more about this program and the Office of Traffic Safety, call Triest at (585) 753-3016 or jtriest@monroecounty.gov.

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