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Missouri law requires kids to be in rear-facing car seats at least until the age of one. But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children stay rear-facing until age two. Lana Martin is a trauma nurse clinician at CoxHealth.
"Because pediatric patients, their neck muscles are not strong enough to withstand forces on an impact when they're forward facing until they're at least two-years-old," she said.
Under Missouri law, kids less than four-years-old or less than 40 pounds must be in an appropriate child safety seat. Children four to seven who weigh at least 40 pounds must be in an appropriate child safety seat or booster until they are 80 pounds or 4'9." Martin says seatbelts don't fit right until a child reaches that height.
Every car seat is a little different on its recommended maximum weight. Martin says a good rule of thumb to follow is to move a child to a new car seat once their shoulders exceed the top of the car seat.
Making sure the seat is installed correctly is vital, she says, to keeping children safe. And many caregivers aren't using car seats correctly. She estimates 70% of care seats aren't installed the way they should be.
"Sometimes it is because the belts are twisted underneath the padding. It's hard for parents to see that, so it's something that's easily missed, but it can also cause the car seat restraint system to not work as well because the belts are crossed. Another thing we commonly see is it's not installed tight enough. Where the car seat fits into the seat itself, there's too much movement there. There shouldn't be more than one inch in that," she said.
And she says she often sees errors in how kids are placed in the seat. For example, she says the belts that secure the baby into the seat often are too loose.
CoxHealth will hold a free car seat safety check Saturday (7/27) for anyone wondering if their car seats are installed correctly. It's from 10 to 2 at Reliable Chevrolet, 3655 S. Campbell in Springfield.
And Cox Trauma Services is available year-round to perofrm car seat checks by appointment. To learn more, 269-0920.
For KSMU News, I'm Michele Skalicky.