How To Get From Here To There (Safely)

Summer is full of play dates and camps and vacations and adventures.  Because of all the activities, parents often spend a lot of time in the family car. The Hopkins Early Childhood Staff would like to send a reminder to all families that car seat safety is an important issue for every ride in the car –even when it feels like it will be such a short trip that the fight over getting buckled up is just not worth the time.

Children perform at their best when they know they are expected to follow a consistent routine. Therefore, keeping the routine of buckling into the car seat or the booster each time you enter the car will eliminate the arguments that begin with “But you let me last time!”

There have been significant shifts in the laws and recommendations over the last few years, so a review of what is now recommended may be in order. A rear facing car seat is where your infant should sit, in the backseat of the car, until she has reached the manufacturer’s maximum height or weight requirement. This means that a twenty pound baby who is one year old is not automatically turned around to a forward facing car seat. Instead, that child would remain rear facing until she reaches the limits of the car seat’s capacity. Only after she exceeds these limits would she be placed in a forward facing car seat (remaining in the back seat of the car).

For more information on the most up-to-date recommendations for car seats, read the information provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A booster seat is recommended after the child outgrows the maximum weight or height capacity for her forward facing car seat.  In Minnesota, the booster is then used (in the backseat) through the age of seven, unless that child is already 4’9″.  Because a seat belt is made for an adult shaped body, the booster seat allows the child to be correctly positioned within the belt in case of an accident.  For this reason, some recommendations go beyond the age limit or height limit and offer a “positioning survey” instead.  By meeting all the requirements of the survey, the parent is assured that the child is safely clicked in with a seat belt alone. Some children do not meet all the requirements until they are ten or twelve years old. Find the survey at SafetyBeltSafeUSA, and click on “Boosters and Belt Fit: 5-Step Test, located under the Parents’ Corner heading.

Minnesota has recently revised it’s laws to better align them with updated recommendations.  Learn about the legal requirements for car seats at the web site for the Office of Traffic Safety, which is a division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Nobody wants to be stuck in a car on a beautiful summer day, and so bicycle riding is becoming more and more common throughout the neighborhoods. Minnesota is a city that welcomes bikers of all ages, and generally accommodates recreational as well as commuter biking. Help those stuck in cars while you are feeling the wind in your hair by following the bike safety recommendations of the NHTSA–and don’t forget that a properly fitted helmet is important for protecting your brain.

Have a safe summer!

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