As any new parent knows, car seat installation can be confusing. But as Holly Wagner will tell you, making sure your child is secured the right way can be a matter of life or death.
In April of 2013, Wagner’s then-boyfriend was driving with her sons, Connor, 3, and Cameron, 11 months, when he reportedly ran a stop sign.
In the resulting crash, Cameron was ejected from his incorrectly fastened front-facing car seat and went through the windshield. The baby was brought to the hospital, where he was in intensive care for 16 days, but ultimately passed away on May 13.
The worst part, according to Wagner, is that the tragedy was completely avoidable.
“I was that mom … the one placing her child, the most important thing to her, in the car seat wrong. I was that mom that would share pictures … on social media and was never corrected,” Wagner wrote on her blog. She hopes that by sharing her story (as well as car seat safety tips on her Facebook page), she can help raise awareness about car seat safety, especially making sure that children aren’t placed in a front-facing seat too soon.
“I make sure to educate as many people as I possibly can so that they don’t have to deal with what I’ve had to deal with,” Wagner told reporters.
For parents who haven’t read up on the topic, current car seat laws only mandate that parents make sure the seats are installed and used as per the product manual’s instructions. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration have recommended that all children remain rear-facing until at least age 2, longer if they are within the height and weight limits of their seat.
The reason for their recommendation is that toddlers are a particularly high-risk group for neck injuries when forward-facing in a car seat.
“Children younger than age 4 have proportionally very large heads and very small neck muscles, so in a crash, their necks have a hard time controlling the movement of the head. This causes the spinal cord to be stretched and, in some cases, to tear,” explains Child Passenger Safety Technician and Babble contributor Katie Loeb.
“Prior to ages 4-6, the spine is made mostly of cartilage, which is softer than bone and cannot withstand the forces of a crash, once again putting the spinal cord at risk.”
Rear-facing car seats support the neck and spine, eliminating these threats in the event of a car crash.
In an interview with Yahoo Parenting, Wagner said that she kept Cameron in a rear-facing seat until he turned 11 months old, but three weeks before the accident, she turned the seat around.
“I wish every single day of my life now that someone would have told me I was doing it wrong BEFORE it was too late,” she wrote. At the time of the crash, Cameron was only fastened by the arm straps — Wagner’s ex-boyfriend did not secure the buckle at his waist.
Parents, please make sure you know how to properly choose and install your car seat, as well as the correct way to strap in your little one. It’s too important, and when it comes to keeping our kids safe, there’s no such thing as too much information.
Here are some more articles on this topic:
- 7 Myths About Extended Rear-Facing Car Seats
- Car Seat Company Ups Forward-Facing Age Requirement – Here’s Why It’s a Big Deal
- 9 Car Seat Mistakes You May Be Making
- 10 Tips for Proper Car Seat Installation
When you’re done reading, don’t forget to take our car seat safety quiz to test whether you can identify some common car seat errors. And if you see a child that isn’t properly restrained — on social media or in real life — don’t be afraid to let the parent know (politely, of course). It might feel awkward, but better safe than sorry.
Image provided to Yahoo Parenting by Holly WagnerMore On