(NUI) - The growing awareness of safe driving and state safety laws has alerted the general public and parents to the importance of using car seats for their small children whenever and wherever they are driving.
Most states require the use of car seats for children under the age of 4 and weighing fewer than 40 pounds. However, serious neck and spinal injuries -- and even death -- can result if child car seats are used incorrectly.
While car accidents can be dangerous for all passengers, small children are especially at risk, according to Dr. Scott Bautch, president of the American Chiropractic Association's Council on Occupational Health.
"The weight of the head of a child makes the cervical spine much more vulnerable to injury," Dr. Bautch explained. "The infant has little control in the muscles of the neck, and the head can bounce from side to side and fall forward, which can cause serious spine and neck injuries."
The American Chiropractic Association, its Council on Occupational Health and ACA member Dr. Michael Freeman have developed the following guidelines and safety tips to ensure proper car seat safety:
Make sure the child safety seat is appropriate for the age and size of the child. A newborn infant requires a different seat than a 3-year-old.
The car seat should always be rear facing as the forces and impact of a crash will be spread more evenly along the back and shoulders, providing more protection for the neck.
Car seats should always be placed in the back seat of the car. This is especially important in cars equipped with air bags. If an air bag becomes deployed, the force could seriously injure or kill a child or infant placed in the front seat.
Make sure the car seat is properly secured to the seat of the vehicle and is placed at a 45-degree angle to support the head of the infant or child.
The lap harness should be fastened low, as close to the hips as possible; the harness should never be fastened around the waist.
Make certain the shoulder harness is fastened securely and the straps lay flat against the body. Twisted straps can cause additional injury and might prevent the seat from working properly.
Use a retention clip (if provided by the manufacturer) when securing a child safety seat with the shoulder harness. The retention or shoulder harness clip is an added safety feature and must be fastened close to the armpit of the infant or child.
Borrowing or purchasing a used car seat can be dangerous; there is the possibility of unknown or undetected damage. Car seats that have been in a serious accident should never be used again.
Be sure the seat meets federal motor vehicle safety seat standards. Consult the owner's manual and instruction booklet.
Be sure the clip between the legs of the child is fastened snugly.
If you or one of your children are involved in a serious automobile accident and have experienced neck and back discomfort, you should consider a visit to a chiropractor.
For a free brochure about chiropractic, or for a list of chiropractors in your area, call the American Chiropractic Association toll-free at 1-800-986-4636 or visit the ACA Web site at www.amerchiro.org.