JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas —
Proper education about placing a child in a car seat could be the difference between life and death.
When installed and used correctly, child safety seats decrease the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent among infants, 54 percent among toddlers and 45 percent among children ages four to eight, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, https://www.nhtsa.gov/.
“Three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly, and we stress that in our class so they’re aware and we give them hands-on assistance,” said Rose Padilla, 59th Medical Operations Squadron and JBSA Family Advocacy Program assistant.
The FAP here offers classes and clinics for families who may be using a car seat for the first time or may need to refresh their installation skills. The two-hour class covers basic safety requirements, guidance and questions for car seats and booster seats. The clinic, on the other hand, is only 30 minutes and serves more as a review of the material taught during the initial class and are more on a one-on-one basis. Safety seat check-ups, installation education and recall checks are also addressed. Parents are recommended to take the child seat safety class before the clinic.
Some of the information they provide include buying the right car seat, installing a car seat correctly, getting the right fit for each child and knowing when to change it.
Texas law requires any child under the age of eight be restrained inside a vehicle. In addition, the Texas Department of Public Safety requires child seats be rear faced until the child turns two.
“During a car crash, the car seat’s job is to protect the child’s head, neck and spine,” Chantelle Stoops, 59th MOS and JBSA FAP outreach manager said, adding that most collisions are head on and the car seats prevent children from being ejected. “We want to educate parents to let them know rear-facing is the best practice because if there was a collision, the car seat is absorbing all the impact.”
Once the child seat is installed correctly, making sure the child is secured is imperative. One way is to check the webbing, which is the woven fabric strips of the five-point harness used to secure the child.
“We test to see if the webbing on the restraint is loose (when the child is buckled in),” Padilla said. “If we are able to grab some of the webbing that means we can make it a little bit tighter.”
Hands-on demonstrations with safety seats are able to further help parents.
“The clinic is where we do the hands-on demonstration for the install,” said Stoops. “Parents can come with the car seat installed and we will check it. We will make corrections and show the parents. If they bring the car seat uninstalled, we do a demonstration on how to install it. Then we unbuckle everything and say, ‘okay mom and dad, it’s your turn to do it.’”
Eventually, the car seat will have to be changed out as the child grows.
Children are required to travel with age and size appropriate child restraints, such as car seats or booster seats, until adult seat belts fit properly. Use of age and size-appropriate cars seats, booster seats and seat belts for child passengers reduces their risk for death and serious injury in crash, according to the Department of Transportation.
A child must be within the range of 40-80 pounds and under 4 feet 9 inches to sit in a booster seat. When they reach at least 4 feet 9 inches tall or weighs 80 pounds, they can sit without the booster seat, according to NHTSA.
There are some additional factors to consider before transitioning out of the booster seat to a seat belt.
“Their feet should be on the floor,” Stoops said. “The seat belt should be across their collarbone. The lap belt should be on their upper thigh and not on their tummy.”
To register for the class or clinic, call 210- 292-5967.