My Three S's: Snug, Secure, Safe Carseats - My Family Travels

The proper use of infant, car and booster seats, as well as the perils of airbags and aircraft seats, are important for every parent to understand.

With the Ford Motor Company recently announcing the availability of inflatable seat belts for outboard-rear-seat passengers (likely to be your kids), it's time to reexamine carseat safety and how technology has made buckling up backseat passengers easier, more comfortable, and more effective in a safety sense than ever before.

Ford's new safety equipment will be an option on 2011 Explorers beginning in spring, so Consumer Reports took a thorough look at this technology, its pros and cons.

Inflatable seat belts have a linear air bag within the body strap that deploys on impact, providing extra shielding to backseat passengers. Consumer Reports found that they successfully spread the force of impact over more body surface, while forcing the seat belt to tighten around the passenger, an added safety feature during a crash. They report that Ford did extensive testing on the effects of air bag deployment on sleeping children, the surface temperature of the air bag, and other concerns. Consumer Reports gives the new system a thumbs-up and reminds parents that Ford will use a specially designed Latch system to attach car seats to vehicles equipped with inflatable seat belts.

With summer travel comes car trips, and an opportunity to remind you that proper use of a carseat is crucial for your child's safety. Please remember that no matter how tired, bored or restless your young passengers become, the only safe place for them to be is properly secured in their approved infant / child / booster seat.  It's the law!  Please refer to manufacturers' instructions for more detailed information about the carseat, even if you're not going to buy a new Ford Explorer.

Some Carseat Safety Reminders

Use an infant carseat from birth until a weight of 20 lbs. and 1 year of age, always rear facing and placed in the rear seat. Convertible carseats can be used for infants and children (from birth until about 40 lbs). These should be rear facing until infants are beyond 20 lbs. and 1 year of age, then forward-facing until the child is about 40 lbs.

Booster seats are for bigger kids who have out-grown child carseats (more than 40 lbs.)  There are two types: a belt positioning booster (for cars with lap and shoulder belts) and a shield booster (for cars with only lap belts). Both raise your child upward. A shoulder belt should never cross your child's throat and should not be tucked behind your child; it should fit across your child's shoulders. A lap belt should not cross the child's stomach; it should fit securely across your child's hips.

To prevent injuries from the force of airbag inflation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges us to be sure that all children under 13, including those in car seats, always sit in the back seat.

If a child must ride in the front, they should be in a forward-facing carseat with a buckle, and the seat should be moved as far back from the dashboard as possible.

Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration recommends that on planes children under 4-years ride in approved seats which are "certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft." They have banned booster seats and most harness or vest restraints on aircrafts stating that they provide inadequate protection during take-off, landing and taxiing.

Buckle up your tots when traveling. Stay snug, secure and safe!

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