By SARAH CODY, FOX CT
February 24, 2014
Statistics are prompting change on the road. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), side-impact car crashes kill at least five small children and leave about 60 with serious injuries each year. "The data we have, in hospitals, in children's hospitals, trauma centers like ours, we know we could be doing better," says Marisol Feliciano, Violence and Injury Prevention Program Coordinator at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford. So, NHTSA is proposing new safety standards, requiring car seat manufacturers to offer better side-impact protection for babies, toddlers and children.
"They're going to test that side-impact," says Feliciano, explaining a first of it's kind test on car seats for kids weighing up to 40 pounds. "They're going to have a vehicle at 30 mph, hit another vehicle at 15 miles per hour and do a 't-bone effect' and see how that crash test dummy simulating, for instance, a 3 year old, will interact in that crash." The vehicles will look like sleds, rather than actual cars, so researchers can better see the seats. Parents can already look for new designs addressing these concerns, with extra padding around the head area, meant to protect against the force of these dangerous collisions. "We want to make our kids as safe as possible," says Feliciano.
She urges moms and dads to check out a Saint Francis program called KISS-CT, Kids in Safety Seats: "Once a month, we host a car seat clinic where anybody can come and get their car seat inspected." Experts look at the expiration date and condition, checking for stress marks or sun damage. They scrutinize installation and see if the chair is the right size for the child. "It is recommended for a child to be 'rear-facing' for as long as possible, not really thinking about going 'forward-facing' until they are at least a minimum age of 2," says Feliciano, noting these new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics are more strict than Connecticut law. Feliciano believes that parents "jump the gun" and move their kid, thinking he is uncomfortable but the "backwards" position offers better head, neck and spine protection. Once the child moves into a "forward-facing" convertible safety seat, parents can use the latch system plus the top tether strap to reduce head movement in a crash. A school-age child can use a booster, but it's incredibly important for the car's seat belt to cover his lap, shoulder and chest correctly.
We are in a 90-day period when the public can comment on the proposal at http://www.regulations.gov. After NHTSA reviews input, and the new regulations are finalized, car seat manufacturers will have three years to implement new rules and meet heightened standards. Feliciano thinks this is positive progress for parents, who have a huge responsibility to keep kids safe in the car: "Because it's lifelong consequences to that child, if they get injured."
To find a car seat inspector, log onto http://www.safekids.org and see car seat safety demonstrations on Monday's Fox CT Morning News.
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