Explaining The New Car Seat Guidelines

So, I said crankily this morning as I read about the new car-seat guidelines, our kids are basically supposed to ride in booster seats until they start driving themselves??

But that was just a moment of pique. When the American Academy of Pediatrics tells me definitively that I can keep my child safer, I’m not about to say no. Here’s the AAP release, including:

The AAP advises parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. It also advises that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age. The previous policy, from 2002, advised that it is safest for infants and toddlers to ride rear-facing up to the limits of the car seat, but it also cited age 12 months and 20 pounds as a minimum. As a result, many parents turned the seat to face the front of the car when their child celebrated his or her first birthday.

And here’s some wisdom from Dr. Lois Lee, medical director of the pediatric injury prevention program at Children’s Hospital Boston. The new guidelines may cause some logistical challenges, she said. For example, how do you fit three booster seats in the back of a sedan? But “It’s worth it, because there’s no price you can set on protecting your child from a permanent brain or spinal cord injury.”

The new guidelines have two main parts, she said, and each has scientific backing:

-Keeping children in rear-facing seats until age 2, rather than 1: “This comes from some research done in Philadelphia that really showed that children who are sitting in rear-facing seats up to age 2 have a significantly decreased risk of injury in the event of a crash, and particularly for side-impact crashes.”
“The child’s head and neck are supported better in rear-facing seats,” she said, “so it is less likely that the head and neck will be whiplashed back and forth.” In Europe, rear-facing seats for children up to 2 have been standard for years, she added.

– Keeping children in booster seats up until the age of 12: With the old recommendations to use boosters until a child was 8 or 4’9”, the height guideline tended to get lost, and people tended to stop using the seats when children turned 8. “Physically,” Lois said, “that doesn’t make sense, because the whole idea is that you have to be tall enough that the shoulder belt crosses over the shoulder and the lap belt sits low over the hips.”

Here’s something I didn’t know, and I’m glad I didn’t have to find out the hard way: A poorly fitted seat belt can actually worsen injuries. Oftentimes, Lois said, the shoulder belt hits smaller children in the neck, which they don’t like, so they put it behind their back and end up with no upper-body protection. And the lap belt rides across the abdomen, so if there’s a crash, “the lap belt basically acts like a fulcrum, and so then the upper body bends forward, so they’re at risk for internal organ injury — intestines, liver and spleen — as well as spinal fractures.”

The idea of the booster seat is that it raises children up to the height of an adult, so the belts can be positioned correctly.

“You have no control of how people drive,” Lois said. “But you do have control over maximimizing the safety of your own children in your own car, so in the event of an unexpected crash, you know you’ve done everything you can to keep your child safe.”

Now where did I put that old booster seat that I thought my daughter had outgrown?

As You Head For The Hill: Sledding Advice From Children’s

I don’t even want to think about the kinds of sledding injuries that the trauma doctors at Children’s Hospital Boston see. I don’t want to picture them. Let’s just assume that they know what they’re talking about when they beg parents to take some basic precautions as they head to the hill with their children on crusty, white evenings like this one.

This new video featuring Dr. David Mooney, director of the trauma program at Children’s, breaks their wisdom down neatly into six S’s:
Slope — watch out for obstacles
Snow — Not too icy
Sled — should be steerable
Sun — is best, poor visibility increases risk
Sit — the safest position
Snowsuit — hypothermia begins with bad judgment

Helmets of the type used for skiing are recommended, but not as important as these other six, Dr. Mooney said. My own family is just back from the hill with tales of some big kids who showed up with heavy snowboards and almost plowed into several little kids. Maybe we need a seventh S: Sanity.

Bulletin: Feds Ban Drop-Sided Cribs

The Associated Press reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s the end of the traditional crib that has cradled millions of babies for generations.

The government outlawed drop-side cribs on Wednesday after the deaths of more than 30 infants and toddlers in the past decade and millions of recalls.

It was a unanimous vote by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban the manufacture, sale and resale of the cribs, which have a side rail that moves up and down, allowing parents to more easily lift their child from the crib.

The new standard requiring cribs to have fixed sides would take effect in June. The move by CPSC would also prohibit hotels and childcare centers from using drop-sides, though those facilities would have a year to purchase new cribs.

The full AP story is here.

Zip Drivers Reminded: Don’t ‘Door’ Bikers!

In eternally progressive Cambridge, a new project will put little reminder stickers on all Zipcar driver-side mirrors, saying “watch for bikes.” (The image above was the only one available, but they’ll be transparent, and won’t impede rear-viewing.)

No one who regularly rides a bike needs me to explain the awful experience of being “doored.” But four-wheeled drivers might be surprised to know how appallingly frequent it is for a driver to open the car door without looking, right in the path of a hapless biker who then goes tumbling into the street and possibly into the hospital. As of last year, “dooring” is an official violation in Massachusetts.

Fatal bike accidents are rare, according to a Boston Globe article in April, with only a handful recorded each year. But reported non-fatal bike accidents number in the hundreds statewide, and a great many more are never reported.

The mirror reminders are a joint effort by Boston-based Zipcar and the grassroots group TROMP, for Travel Responsibility Outreach and Mentoring Project. My vote: spread the decals far beyond Zipcar drivers.