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Car Seat Safety Awareness Month: What parents should know

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - As Car Seat Safety Awareness Month winds down, we wanted to take the opportunity to share some of the top tips from Safe Kids Worldwide, a non-profit that works to reduce unintentional injuries in children.

Locally, Safe Kids Huntsville serves all of North Alabama. Huntsville Hospital has been the lead agency for the chapter since 1997.

Here are some of the main safety points, broken down by age:

BABIES

  • Always ride in the back seat, away from air bags
  • Use a car seat approved for their age and weight, every time
  • Remain-facing seat, until at least age 2
  • Their car seat doesn't move more than one-inch when pulled at the belt path
  • Their harness straps are snug and you can't pinch the buckled strap at their shoulders
  • The chest clip is at armpit level

TODDLERS AND BIGGER KIDS

  • Always ride in the back seat, away from air bags
  • Use a car seat approved for their age and weight, every time
  • Remains in this car seat until he or she outgrows the harness. Many harnesses go to 50 pounds or more
  • Their harness straps are snug and you can't pinch the buckled strap at their shoulders
  • The seats are buckled tightly and don't move more than one-inch when pulled at the belt path
  • If the combined weight of the child and the seat exceeds the LATCH system limit (this weight limit depends on your particular vehicle/car seat model), the seat is secured with the seat belt

BIG KIDS

  • Always ride in a back seat
  • Sits in a booster seat, using a lap and shoulder seat belt
  • The lap belt sits low on his or her hips, not the stomach
  • The shoulder belt is on the child's shoulder - not the neck, under the arm or behind the back.
  • The child may be between 8-12 years old before the seat belt fits without a booster
  • Generally, children should use a booster until they are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds

OLDER BIG KIDS

  • Do not move to the front seat until 13 or older
  • Always use a lap and shoulder belt
  • The lap belt sits low on his or her hips, not the stomach
  • The shoulder belt is on the child's shoulder - not the neck, under the arm or behind the back
  • The child's back is firmly against the vehicle seat back, his or her knees bend at the front edge of the vehicle seat, and he or she can sit this way for the whole ride.
  • The seat belt is snug, flat and comfortable. If it does not fit correctly, the child must use a booster seat.
  • Remember, car seat safety is only as good as the parent or caregiver in charge. Child safety advocates say you must follow these best practices every time, every trip.

Of course, it can be difficult to know whether your seat is installed correctly. In fact, studies show nearly three-quarters are installed incorrectly.

That's why trained technicians are available to provide free car-seat inspections. The inspections are done by appointment only at Huntsville Hospital's Franklin Tower parking garage, 927 Franklin Street.

Call (256) 265-7296 to schedule an appointment or for additional information on car seat safety. The car seat fitting station is located on the lower level of the parking garage. Just follow the signs.

Outside of the car, Safe Kids is also working to protect children with its Spot the Tot program. The initiative aims to teach families about the preventable injuries that occur in driveways and parking lots, when drivers don't know a child is nearby. This is especially important if you drive an SUV or truck. These vehicles are involved in more backover incidents than cars, simply because it's more difficult to see whether a child is behind them.

Before getting in a vehicle, Safe Kids recommends "all drivers, even those without children of their own, walk all the way around their parked vehicles to check for children, or anything that could attract a child, such as a pet or toy."

Another danger - trunk entrapment. The simplest way to avoid this is to always keep your vehicle locked.

For more safety tips, click here.