Experts say child safety seats worth the hassle
April 8, 1996
Web posted at: 8:20 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Andrew Holtz
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Although child safety seats now are mandatory in all 50 states, many people either use them incorrectly or not at all, resulting in unnecessary injuries and deaths.
Some police departments, like that in DeKalb County, Georgia, have set up routine road checks to ferret out drivers who disobey the safety seat law. In some cases, the officers ticket offenders in order to force drivers to protect their young passengers.
Sometimes the police give new safety seats to children who did not have them. The drivers also are given detailed instructions on the safe use of the seats, because many accidents can be traced to problems with the seats' installation.
Experts offer some guidelines for car seat installation. Infant seats should always face the back of the car, they say, with seatbelt straps threaded through the correct slots. The seatbelts should be pulled tight.
Safety seat straps should be adjusted to each child individually. There should be no more than two fingers' width between the straps and the child, and all straps should be pulled snug.
Keeping straps taut can be a problem, especially with shoulder harness seatbelts. Experts suggest using a locking clip to keep safety seats secure. The clip should be as close to the seatbelt's buckle as possible, a feat easier said than accomplished at times.
Some newer cars have seatbelts that do not require a locking clip. Safety authorities predict that future cars will be safety seat-friendly and not require the use of seatbelts at all. Instead, they will lock into the car on a permanent base.
Although new cars typically offer more safety features, experts warn that car seats and airbags are not a safe combination for small children. Airbags often slam the safety seat hard enough to cause brain damage to infants. Car safety authorities recommend that the child seat be placed in the back seat or that the passenger-side airbag be disabled.
Despite the hassles associated with child safety seats and their installation, car safety experts estimate that more than 300 lives are saved each year by their use. The number of young lives saved would rise dramatically, they say, if all infants rode in car safety seats.
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