Safe Kids New Jersey educates parents on car seat safety

BY Lauren Wanko, Correspondent |

Mom Lauren Bennett wants nothing more than to keep her young children safe.

“You sit up lying worrying about the little things and this is one less thing to worry about, so this is a huge relief,” said Bennett.

The mom of two is talking about her kids’ car seats. Safe Kids New Jersey, part of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization dedicated to keeping kids safe, is checking Bennett’s two car seats.

“Car seats are a miracle for keeping kids safe most of time,” said Safe Kids New Jersey Director Carol Ann Giardelli.

If the seats are used correctly, says Giardelli.

“Unfortunately misuse is high. It could go anywhere from 75 to 95 percent of the time there is something being misused with the car seat that could possibly contribute to an injury. A properly installed, properly fitted car seat can reduce a child’s risk of death by 71 percent if you are involved in a crash,” she said.

The most common misuses? Twisted straps or seats that are too loose. Safe Kids New Jersey seeks to educate parents about these kinds of mistakes. The nonprofit has a statewide network of inspection stations where nationally certified child passenger safety techs conduct the checks for free.

“It’s nice to have experts available to check on how I’m doing and my knowledge and just double check that I’m doing it right,” said Bennett.

“We want to make sure the car seat is installed in the car correctly, and we also want to make sure the kids are riding in the seat correctly,” said Safe Kids Injury Prevention Coordinator Diana Starace.

Starace takes out the seat, inspects the shell and five point-harness to make sure they’re in good condition, and also checks for recalls and the expiration date.

“Most of the car seats have a six year expiration date and it’s stamped right on the car seat,” she said.

Safe Kids New Jersey offers parents a number of tips to ensure their children ride safely in their car seat for every ride, like my son Landon. First, they recommend that you make sure that the car seat can’t move more than an inch in any direction. And then, the harness straps shouldn’t be twisted and you want to make sure they’re nice and snug. To do that, you can do the pinch test. Your finger should slide right off the harness strap. For rear facing car seats, you want to make sure that the shoulder strap is either at or below the shoulder and the chest clip is at armpit level.

New Jersey requires children under two years old and 30 pounds be secured in a rear-facing car seat with a five point harness.

“But, our recommendation is to keep them rear facing for as long as the weight limit of the seat is, the weight and height restriction of the seat, the car seat. You can find that on the label,” said Giardelli.

Giardelli says the rear facing seat is critical in creating a cocoon of sorts for young children to protect the head, neck and spine.

“So many parents are in a rush to move their child to the next level, move them to the next step. And child safety seats is one area that you do not want to be in a rush to move them to the next step,” she said.

Bennett is grateful for the inspection and education.

“There were some minor things that I was not doing correctly and I didn’t even think about it,” said Bennett.

Now she says she can sleep a little better at night.

So is she not intimidated to go on a massive summer road trip?

“I would say I think we’re going to hold off on a massive road trip,” she said.

She feels more secure, though, driving throughout the state this summer with her precious cargo in the back seat.