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News Child Passenger Safety with Every Ride, Every Time

There were 8,281 crashes in Montana in 2016 just in the winter months (November-February). There were 16,744 injuries sustained from these crashes and 47 of them were fatal. The winter months in Montana can make for dangerous road conditions, so it is important, now and always, to ensure your child is properly restrained when riding in a vehicle.

Child passenger restraints, also known as child safety seats, are the car seats and booster seats used for children to protect them in the event of a car crash. Motor vehicle injuries are one of the leading causes of death among children in the United States, but injuries and deaths from car crashes can be prevented through proper use of your child’s car seat and booster seat.

A few risk factors for injury or death in the event of a car crash are the lack of use of car seats and booster seats, and if the car seat or booster seat is used incorrectly. This could decrease the effectiveness in protecting your child in the event of car crash.

So, what can you do as a caregiver to make sure that you are using a car seat or booster seat that is appropriate for the age and size of the child? For starters, a child should be in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat until age 2 or when the child reaches the weight or height limits listed on the stickers on the car seat. If your child is between the ages of 2 and up to at least age 5 then the child may be in a forward-facing car seat with harness straps in the back seat, until the child reaches the weight and height limits listed on the car seat. Once a child reaches the height and weight limits of their forward-facing car seat, the child should be buckled in a belt positioning booster seat until the seat belt fits properly. Seat belts can be identified as fitting properly when the lap belt lies across the upper thighs (NOT the stomach), and the shoulder belt lies across the chest (NOT the neck). After it is identified that the seat belt fits properly without a booster seat, then the child should always use a seat belt. As mentioned above, seat belts fit properly when the belt lies across the upper thighs and chest. The recommended height for proper seat belt fit that would allow transition from a booster seat to a seat belt without the booster seat is approximately 57 inches tall or 4 feet 9 inches. It is recommended that the child be buckled in the back seat up through age 12. It is important for you to check the owner manual and labels with the car seat for the weight and height limits.

Other safety tips include not placing a rear-facing car seat in front of an air bag. Buckling children in the middle of the back seat is one of the safest areas in the vehicle. ALWAYS buckle your child in their car seat, booster seat, or seat belts on every trip, no matter how short. As a caregiver, you can set a good example for your child by always using a seat belt yourself.

Did you know that if you have questions about installing your car safety seat correctly and how to use it, you can have a Child Passenger Safety Technician in the area assist you with a one-on-one learning experience? This service allows you to leave your session feeling confident in how to install and use your child’s car safety seat correctly. The Great Falls and Cascade County community is fortunate to have certified technicians that can assist you with this learning experience by appointment. Contact one of the lead child passenger safety technicians, Mary Kay Burns, with the City County Health Department, at 406-454-6750 for assistance in finding the technician nearest you to set up an appointment and discuss specifics of what to expect during your learning experience. The wonderful community of Great Falls does have car seat check events, so keep a look out in the future for these learning opportunities. Let’s partner together in our community to help keep the children in Great Falls healthy, happy, and safe with every ride, every time!

Crystal Bahnson, CPNP

About Crystal Bahnson, CPNP

Crystal joined the Great Falls Clinic Pediatrics department in August of 2017. She specializes in general pediatrics and enjoys partnering with families to help children be their best selves, safe and healthy. Crystal is accepting new patients at the Great Falls Clinic Main Campus, 1400 29th Street South. For more information, please call 406-454-2171.

 

 

 

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