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  • New car seat guidelines could save children's lives

    By Cynde Rivers, RN
    Emergency Medical Services Coordinator

    Parents and even grandparents of children who ride in car seats should take note of new safety recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    With potentially life-saving implications, the new policy says toddlers should ride in rear-facing car seats until age 2 or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat.

    The previous policy cited age 12 months and 20 pounds as a minimum threshold to put children in a front-facing seat. As a result, many parents turned the seat to face the front of the car on the child’s first birthday, even though new research has shown it is safest for toddlers to continue to ride in rear-facing seats. A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention showed that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing.

    Car crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death for children younger than 14. A properly installed car seat reduces the risk of fatal injury by up to 71 percent for infants less than 1 year old, and 54 percent for toddlers in passenger cars.

    The guidelines, published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics, also advise that most children should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are 4-foot-9 inches tall and are between age 8 and 12.

    Car seat placement and vehicle restraints can be a source of anxiety and frustration for many parents. However, we know that proper placement of children in motor vehicles significantly decreases the risk of injury and death. There is anatomical and physiological support for why children are placed in vehicle restraints during certain developmental stages of their lives.

    In Washington state, the law says a child must be restrained in a properly secured child restraint system until the child is 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches or taller. Children younger than 13 must ride in the back seat when it is practical to do so. The fine for improperly restrained children is at least $112 per child.

    A car seat isn’t as useful if it’s not properly installed. It’s estimated that 80 percent to 90 percent of parents use their car seat incorrectly. But there’s an easy remedy: MultiCare Health System offers free car seat inspections by six certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians. The technicians will inspect your car seat for recalls and proper installation, teach you how to use it correctly and answer your safety questions.

    Please bring your child (if possible), your car seat instructions and vehicle owner’s manual.

    Free car seat inspections are available:

    Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital Safe and Sound Building
    1112 S. 5th Street, Tacoma
    • Tuesdays 9-10:30 a.m.
    • No appointment necessary
    • For holiday or weather-related closures call 253.403.1417

    Good Samaritan Hospital Children’s Therapy Unit
    402 15th Avenue S.E., Puyallup
    • By appointment only
    • Call 253.403.1417

    Other locations that offer inspections by appointment only include:
    East Pierce Fire and Rescue: 253-863-1800
    Gig Harbor Fire and Medic One: 253-851-5111
    Lakewood Fire Department: 253-983-4579
    McChord AFB Fire Department: 253-982-2603

    Technicians can answers questions such as:

    • How do I choose the right car safety seat for my child?

    • Where can I get help installing it in my car correctly?

    • Where can I purchase a car safety seat?

    The Center for Childhood Safety at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital is committed to preventing serious and fatal injuries by providing education and resources both to the hospital and the community. If you have questions about car seats, or would like to be referred to other car seat fitting stations in your area, call the Mary Bridge Car Seat Helpline at 253-403-1417.

    Cynde Rivers, RN, is Emergency Medical Services Coordinator for MultiCare Mary Bridge Children's Hospital Emergency Department in Tacoma. For more information, visit

    Posted on Mar 23, 2011 in Tacoma