The School Year Starts with a Safety Seat

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Many schools across Texas are getting back in session and that often means putting extra safety seats in SUVs so that they can be turned into make-shift carpool buses for the neighborhood kids. Children need safety seats, it is not only a law, but they can be seriously hurt if they are using a seat belt alone. Luckily, a Texas defensive driving school, Comedy Driving, offers a review on some child safety laws and tips.

First of all, children less than 4 feet 9 inches are recommended to use a safety belt regardless of age because most seat-belts and air-bags are designed for persons 4 feet 9 inches and above. Texas law currently requires any child less than 8 years old and less than 4 feet 9 inches in height to be placed in a safety seat while in a vehicle. Tickets issued to child seatbelt violators usually pay over $100 for the first offense in Texas, but the fine increases to over $200 for a second offense. In addition, the violator may be required to take a seatbelt course. The seatbelt course is similar to a defensive driving course, but is specifically for seatbelt violators. A seatbelt course may also prevent car insurance rates from increasing.

The safety seat needed varies depending on the size of the child as well as the manufacturer’s guidelines for their product. One rule of thumb to go by is to keep an infant in a rear-facing safety seat as long as possible, usually until they reach at least 35 – 40 pounds.

It has been determined by the American Academy of Pediatrics that leaving a child in a rear-facing seat until the age of 2 is much safer for the child based on their undeveloped bodies. Younger children have more weight in their heads and need additional head support. In a crash infants in forward facing safety seats are more likely to be injured because they lack support for their heads.

When a child is over 40 pounds they are ready to switch to a forward facing safety seat. Forward facing safety seats offer back support and provide a boost in height for children so that the seat belt stays on their shoulder rather than near their neck. Children and adults should never have a seatbelt strap tight and close to their necks because this could lead to friction cuts or even worse, decapitation.

Once a child outgrows their forward facing safety seat, which can occur as early as age 4, and over 40 pounds, that means they are ready for booster seats. Booster seats give kids the boost they need for a seat belt to fit them perfectly. Children should use a booster seat until they reach 4 feet 9 inches in height.

When installing a safety seat it is recommended to have a professional confirm that installation is done correctly because many safety seats installed by parents are done incorrectly which can make the seat dangerous for a child. Some fire stations, hospitals, and police departments offer help with this, so confirm with your local authorities or the nearest location to inspect your safety seat.

Once a child outgrows their booster seat make sure they wear their seatbelt properly. A seatbelt’s lap portion should rest over the hip/tops of thighs and the shoulder belt should cross the center of the shoulder and the chest based on the Texas Department of Public Safety guidelines. Shoulder belts should never be placed behind a child’s back to avoid discomfort. Having just a lap belt in use diminishes the effectiveness of a seat belt, which is to reduce the forward motion of the entire body not just the midsection.

These safety tips can help make a trip to school safer for children. Parents may place warning devices on their vehicles like “Baby on Board” stickers but a sticker cannot replace a safety device as important as a safety seat so parents should take heed of these tips for the kids on board.

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Jeffrey Bitner
Comedy Driving Inc
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