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Driving safely with baby

Published:Wednesday | May 16, 2012 | 12:00 AM

By Lisa Franklin- Banton

The importance of properly securing our children in vehicles should not be overlooked. No journey is too short to ignore the possibility of an accident. It is, therefore, every parent's responsibility to ensure their child's safety when being driven.

A child safety seat (car seat) is the best protection you can give your child as it reduces the risk of a potentially fatal injury in an accident. Car seats should be used from your child's first journey home from the hospital. It should, however, be appropriate for your child and be installed correctly for it to be effective.

A car seat should be chosen based on your child's weight, height and the type of vehicle.

Rear-facing car seats

All infants and toddlers should use a rear-facing car seat until they are two years old or until they reach the weight and height allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat. There are three types of rear-facing car seats:

i. Rear-facing only. These seats are small and have carrying handles.

ii. Convertible car seats. These can be installed in a rear-facing position, and later in a forward position for older children.

iii. Three-in-one seats. These can be used as rear-facing for infants and toddlers, and later as forward-facing or booster seats for older children.

A rear-facing car seat should never be placed in the front seat of a vehicle which has an active passenger airbag. If the airbag inflates, it can cause serious harm to your baby. Ideally, car seats should be placed in the back seat but if you have no other choice, the front seat should be pushed as far back as possible.

Forward-facing seats

When your child gets to two years old, provided that she/he doesn't exceed the weight and height restrictions of the car seat, she/he may now be moved to a forward-facing position, and this can be used up to about four years old. You will know that your child has outgrown the forward-facing seat when:

He reaches the maximum weight and height allowed for his seat.

His shoulders are above the top harness lock.

His ears have reached the top of the seat.

Booster seats

Booster seats should be used by older children who have outgrown the forward-facing car seats. These have no harnesses and are designed to raise the child so that the lap and shoulder seat belt fits correctly. They are typically used until the child can fit correctly in the adult seat belt.

An adult seat belt fits correctly when the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder. It should not come into contact with the neck or throat. The lap belt should fit across the upper thighs and not across the belly.

The best car seat is one which fits your child's weight and height and fits well in your vehicle. Car seats must be used for every child, and remember to stay off your cellphones and drive safely.

Dr Lisa N C Franklin-Banton is the president of the Paediatric Association of Jamaica; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com