MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. — Government statistics show that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children in the United States, and now a Westchester hospital is offering parents an option to help keep their kids safe – just in case.
The Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco has certified car seat safety technicians who provide free car seat inspections to families.
Barbara Rome is one of the technicians and said car seats can be a life-saving device, but only if used the right way.
“You could have the best car seat in the world, but if it’s not installed correctly, if you’re not using it correctly, then it’s not going to do its job,” Rome said.
The CDC said 608 child passengers who were 12 years and younger died in motor vehicle crashes in 2019. Out of the children who were less than four years old, 27% were not buckled up.
The first line of action the technicians say is to check the sticker on the car seat to make sure it meets federal guidelines for safety and has the correct height and weight for the child.
“The child’s head should be at least one inch below the top of the car seat,” Rome said.
A common misuse, she adds, is hanging plastic toys on the seat because any object can become a projectile in a crash.
“If you have a one-pound plastic toy hanging from the car seat, that will potentially become 50 pounds of pressure if you’re going 50 miles an hour,” Rome added.
She also said rear-facing is the safest position for the child up to 2 years old according to New York State’s mandate.
The car seat gets attached to the car through a latch or a seat belt. If using the latch, make sure it’s straight and not twisted.
“Latches should always be up right, almost like a stapler,” Rome said. “You’re going to find your latch in your car and you’re going to secure it to the latch system.”
Once installed, it should not move more than an inch in any direction.
It’s also important to know that car seats do expire. They typically last about seven years, but double check with your manufacturer. Additionally, getting into a car accident may warrant you to replace your car seat, but Rome said to call your manufacturer again with details of the crash and they’ll inform you on whether you’ll need to get a new one.