Many children are injured and even killed in motor vehicle crashes every year. All parents should make sure to wear a seat belt every time they drive, which in turn can help the kids to develop a lifelong habit of buckling up. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that young children can be kept safe by using a proper and appropriate car seat whenever you take them for a ride. This means every time they get in a car, whether it’s you driving them or a friend.1
From day one of life, all parents are advised to carry their babies home from the hospital using a car seat. The very first ride using a car seat will make the later rides accepted automatically. No matter how short the trip, the car seat is always safer than carrying your baby in your arms.2 In addition, the AAP also recommends checking every infant to make sure they fit in their car seat before they leave the hospital. An “infant car seat challenge test” usually involves watching for any breathing difficulties, drops in oxygen levels, or significant changes in heart rate as the baby sits in the seat.3 Massachusetts and other states legally require that older children who present to emergency care and hospitals get screened for appropriate car seat use before they leave. A recent study showed that a computerized screening tool in the emergency department definitely reduces injuries in children.4,5
Researchers have found that infants involved in a car crash most commonly suffer head injuries, and using a rear-facing car safety seat can minimize these risks.6 However, car seats can be dangerous if you use them outside of a car for other things they weren’t designed to do. Using a car seat as an alternative to a cot or high chair can cause sudden severe injuries and even death. Use your car seats only for transport, not for sleeping, feeding, or other uses outside the vehicle.7
Recommendations for Car seats:
For the most current information of choosing a car seat, visit SaferCar.gov.
Sai NR Chandamuri, MD
James Abbey, MD
1. Car Seats: Information for Families for 2014 [Online article]. 2014. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages..., 2014.
2. Eisenberg A, Murkoff HE, Hathaway SE. What to expect the first year. New York: Workman; 1989.
3. Wilker RE, Cotoni BJ, Mirando CS, Bass JL. Newborn car bed testing in a community hospital: implementing the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. Am J Perinatol. Sep 2014;31(8):677-682.
4. Elliott LN, DiGirolamo B, McMahon M, et al. An Inpatient Child Passenger Safety program. Clin Pediatr (Phila). Nov 2013;52(11):1022-1028.
5. Kiley K, Damian F, MacClaren W, et al. A computerized child passenger safety screening program in the emergency department. Pediatr Emerg Care. Sep 2014;30(9):631-635.
6. Stewart CL, Moscariello MA, Hansen KW, Moulton SL. Infant car safety seats and risk of head injury. J Pediatr Surg. Jan 2014;49(1):193-196; discussion 196-197.
7. Bamber AR, Pryce J, Ashworth MT, Sebire NJ. Sudden unexpected infant deaths associated with car seats. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. Jun 2014;10(2):187-192.