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IU School of Medicine expert shares car seat safety reminders

IU expert talks child seat safety

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Officials at the Indiana University School of Medicine and Riley Hospital for Children want to make sure children are safe on the road.

They say car accidents are one of the leading causes of death or serious injury in U.S. children under 9 years old.

The team urges parents to check a car seat or booster seat for an expiration date. Those can be found on the side label or etched into the back of the seat.

Car seats typically have a lifespan of about six years. After some use and cycling through the heat and cold in your car, the materials eventually degrade.

Indiana law requires children to use a restraint until they turn eight. However, Dr. Marilyn Bull, a pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, says parents need to look at how the buckles, straps, and headrests fit to determine which model is the best for their child.

“We’ve changed tremendously over the past years and rear-facing longer is one thing that has been possible because of the construction of the seat,” Bull said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 85% of child seats are not properly installed or don’t fit the child they’re supposed to protect.

Bull also serves as a professor emeritus at the IU School of Medicine. For decades, she’s been a leader in child passenger safety, serving on boards of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine.

She says how long a child should use a seat is different for everyone based on weight and height.

“The law of physics is that a child should be restrained in a child restraint, a booster seat for older children until the seat belt fits,” Bull said.

Parents should know their child’s weight and continually check the labels on their seats to make sure they are still using the appropriate model.

“The way it was engineered by the manufacturer of the seat is extremely important to take the best benefit from the seat,” Bull said.

It’s also important that children are buckled in the right way,

“A five-point harness to hold the child in the booster seat,” Bull said. “Why do race drivers have a four-point harness? Because it distributes the forces over more of the body over the bony structure.”

Kids shouldn’t graduate to a regular three-point seat belt until it can properly buckle in their hips and shoulders.

One of the best tips Bull can give to parents is for them to make sure everyone in the car is secure before heading out on a trip.

“We know that children are more likely to be buckled up with their parents buckled up,” Bull said. “So “It’s important for every passenger in the car to wear their seatbelts for every ride … as a good example for their children.”

When it comes to buying, Bull warns it’s never a good idea to buy a car seat from a garage sale. However, she says finding a used one from a trusted friend or family member is fine as long as its full history is known.

She also adds it’s better to buy seats in person. If a parent must buy a car seat online, she urges them to double-check that it’s from a reputable manufacturer and meets federal safety standards.

The IU School of Medicine runs the Safety Store at Riley, where they offer low rates on car seats of all sizes. They also run the Automotive Safety Program, which offers tips for proper installation and other resources about car seat safety.