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Wednesday, 16 April 2014
 
 
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Traveling Without a Car Seat

What if you don't have a car seat with you? Can't you just buckle up your child in a safety belt or hold the child on your lap?

The primary job of a safety belt is to keep you from being ejected from the vehicle. The younger and smaller the child, the less effective the safety belt will be in both preventing injury and ejection from the vehicle, because the safety belt was designed for a 50th percentile adult male. A child under 1 year old and less than 20 pounds will likely receive no benefit if placed in a safety belt due to her small body size, large head, and inability to sit unsupported. A child of this age and size must always ride in an age/weight appropriate rear-facing car seat.

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So too, a child over 1 and 20 pounds should also always ride in an age/weight appropriate car seat. We realize that many NYC toddlers ride in taxis without a car seat, often held on the lap of an adult,  so we feel it is important to note that holding a child is the worst option of all.   No one is strong enough to hold onto a child in the instant of a crash---where the child becomes much heavier than normal.  In this situation a child will fly forward either into the divider screen or out the windshield.  Therefore, should a toddler ever be in a vehicle without a car seat, he may receive some benefit from wearing a safety belt due to his larger body size and ability to sit unsupported.

If you must place your toddler in a seat belt, place him in a shoulder-and-lap belt (not just a lap belt – unless the shoulder belt is resting across the child's face). Pull the safety belt so it's very snug and so the lap portion of the belt is resting very low and very snug on the tops of the child's thighs. Never let the child place the shoulder belt behind her back or under her arm, since this increases the chance of serious head, abdominal, and spinal cord injuries.

Should I buckle up both myself and my child in the same seat belt, where my child sits on my lap and I buckle both of us in?

No!  Never use one seat belt for two people – i.e. don’t let your child sit on your lap and put the seat belt over both of you. Rule of thumb: One person, one seat belt.

Why? In a crash, everything will weigh its weight multiplied by the speed of a crash – if you are 100 pounds and are in a 30mph crash, you will weigh approximately 3000 pounds. If there's something between your body and the seat belt (like a child sitting on your lap), your body will crush the child.



 
 
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