Becoming a parent can be an overwhelming experience, with so much to do and to learn and to know.
One thing that parents should make a priority is buying the right car seat for their new baby and ensuring that it is installed correctly.
Georjeane Blumling, spokeswoman for AAA Tidewater Virginia, said all seats sold in the United States meet federal safety standards, but they still must be used correctly for maximum safety benefits to the child.
“It is important to obtain and know how to use a car seat properly before the baby is born. Local hospitals will not release a baby without the parents having a safety seat to transport them home in,” Blumling said.
Researchers indicate that toddlers are 75 percent less likely to die or be seriously injured in a crash when they ride in a rear-facing car seat up to their second birthday.
AAA Tidewater acts as the regional coordinator for many of the safety seat initiatives in Hampton Roads, including CPS technician training and community car seat activities. The AAA office is also a “Fit Station” for the Virginia Department of Health’s program.
Blumling said people can call and make an appointment to have their car seat checked for proper installation.
Blumling, a nationally certified child passenger safety instructor for more than 20 years, recently helped spearhead an initiative to strengthen the state’s current safety seat law, which in part will keep children “rear-facing” until they’re 2 years old.
“That new portion of the law will take effect next July 1, 2019,” she said. “The reason for the delayed enactment date is to allow for expanded education of parents and caregivers prior to the law going into effect.”
Research has found that rear facing seats disperse the crash force more evenly across the back of the seat and the child’s body and limit the motion of the head, reducing the potential of neck injury.
Blumling said the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reported in 2016 that there were more than 1,766 crashes involving children under the age of 8 years, which resulted in 16 fatalities.
Likewise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in 2015, an estimated 248 children under the age of 4 were saved due to restraint use, but also found that in 59 percent of crashes, child safety seats were being incorrectly used.
A couple of online resources for parents that Blumling recommends are www.safeseats4kids.aaa.com and www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats.
It’s also important not to move a child out of a car seat too soon.
“Too often parents will graduate their children into a seatbelt before they are ready,” Blumling said. “What they may not understand is that vehicle seat belts alone simply do not fit a child shorter than 57 inches. Placing a child too early in a seatbelt increases the risk for abdominal injuries in a crash.”
Section 46.2-1095 of the Code of Virginia addresses child car seat laws.