Written By Jason Neufeld
Personal injury lawyer, Jason Neufeld, with the law firm of Neufeld, Kleinberg, and Pinkiert, P.A. has recently become a father to two handsome twin boys. Jason has learned some of the biggest pitfalls new parents’ make when selecting and installing a car seat. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2012, more than 1,100 children ages 14 years and younger died in motor vehicle crashes, and more than 176,000 were injured. But parents can make a lifesaving difference with proper car seat use.
- Using an old or secondhand car seat: While you may not think a car seat expires like milk, an old car seat passed down by a friend or purchased at a garage sale could endanger your child’s life. An old car seat could be missing important parts or the manufacturer’s instruction manual, may have been involved in a car accident (even damage not seen by a visual inspection may impact the seat’s effectiveness) which comprises the integrity of the seat, and may have been recalled by the manufacturer. An important consideration in Florida’s heat is that plastic gets brittle as it ages, and SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. recommends using a car seat ideally less than five years old. You can find an expiration date marked on each car seat.
- Not using a car seat consistently: Even a quick road trip down the street to the store requires the use of a car seat, despite your little one’s tantrums that may have you consider otherwise. No quick road trips to a neighbor’s house while your baby sits in your lap. Using a car seat consistently and properly is the law in Florida. In fact, all 50 states require that children up to generally 3 years of age ride in car seats, and many have laws requiring car seats or booster seats until a child is considerably older in order to prevent the tens of thousands of children injured each year in car accidents.
- Turning your child to face forward too early: We all want to look at our children as much as possible and it may be tempting to turn your rear facing car seat forward once your child appears to be big enough to face forward with mom and dad. Also, a larger child may seem cramped in a rear facing car seat as their legs hit the backseat as they get older. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until the age of 2, or until they reach the seat’s maximum rear-facing height and weight limits. Basically, the longer a child can ride rear-facing, the better protected his or her spinal cord is in the event of a collision, says former Child Passenger Safety Training Manager for the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.
- Not installing a car seat correctly: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that three out of four safety seats are used incorrectly. One of the most common mistakes is not buckling the car seat in tightly enough as the car seat should not move side to side more than an inch. If a car seat is not installed correctly, you child’s safety could be in danger. There are places that you can take your car seat to be inspected by a professional. You can try to call your local hospital, police, or fire station to find out who currently conducts seat inspections or visit http://www.safercar.gov. But, in a prior article written in the Aventura News, Jason reported that he had searched for proper car-seat installation instruction in South Florida and found that many police and fire stations no longer conduct seat inspections.
However, the City of Sunny Isles Beach reached out to Jason to inform him that they have a program to instruct parents on the proper installation of child seats to avoid car accident injuries (many thanks to Alayne Yeash for this information). The Sunny Isles PD has employees that are nationally-certified passenger safety technicians. Appointments for 1-on-1 sessions are required and may be made by calling Sandra Block at 305.792.1839.
Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, in Hollywood, Florida also offers car-safety installation instruction.
- Letting your child ride in the front seat: As fun as it is to call shot gun and ride in the front seat, the CDC recommends that all children aged 12 and under should ride in the back seat. Airbags can seriously harm or kill children riding in the front seat. Also, never position a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag.
Mr. Neufeld is a car-accident attorney with Neufeld, Kleinberg & Pinkiert, PA. If you would like to speak to an attorney, please call 305.931.6666 and ask for Jason Neufeld, or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.