Beware! In this issue of Family Matters, you are about to read about some of the things folks do with their children’s car seats. Protect your children by ensuring these mistakes don’t happen to you, too!

Strap Disaster

A few years ago, a father driving north on the Don Valley Parkway took an off-ramp to his destination with his two and a half year old toddler in the rear, in a forward facing car seat. As the vehicle made a turn, the rear door opened with the centrifugal force of the turn, sending the toddler and car seat tumbling out onto the shoulder. The father had only harnessed the child into the car seat, then placed both onto the back seat of the vehicle, and drove off. No UAS nor top tether straps were used, as is mandatory, nor had he engaged the childproof door locks. A two and a half year old can easily jiggle with the door handle and, voila! The door swings open during the turn. Luckily the toddler wasn’t injured; the seat took the brunt of the force.

Reducing Flying Objects

Is your vehicle full of stuff? Consider the couple involved in a rollover collision with their infant in the car with them, all safely belted into their seats. A paramedic colleague of mine was dispatched to the scene to find the infant bleeding badly from a gash to her head. A Baby On Board sign – very commonly used by parents – had been placed on the rear window with a suction cup attachment, and had ripped loose during the rollover. It had flown through the interior of the vehicle like a ninja star and struck the infant on the head causing a bleed requiring 10 stitches. So, never keep loose objects in the car that can become airborne during a collision.

Shock Absorption Seating

A rear-facing child car seat, when properly installed, should move laterally across the rear car seat a maximum of 1-1 ½ inches when you hand test it. When I install car seats, I like to tighten it so the whole vehicle rocks back and forth when I test for snugness.

There will be some vertical movement with the seat which many parents think is being “too loose”. Not so! This has to happen to some extent; it is a safety valve of sorts. Think of the analogy of someone throwing you a raw egg. How do you catch it? Your hands give, protecting the egg from being damaged. In a front end vehicle collision, that up and down motion works in the same way, displacing the force of the collision along the frame of the child car seat, and not on the child’s spine or neck. One driver had actually drilled a hole in the leading edge of the child’s car seat, installed a cable down through the floor of his vehicle and tightly bolted it in place! Should the car have gotten into an accident, there would not have been the necessary shock absorption through the seat, causing potentially fatal damage to the child’s neck and spine.

So parents, do your homework, read the manuals and call for assistance when in doubt. Keep those little ones safe!