Does it make sense to use car safety seats only sometimes, or only when children are older?
© 2013 Roy Benaroch, MD
Trusted Pediatrician: “Mrs. Johnson, Bobby is doing great! He’s growing fine, and doing all of the things a six month old baby ought to do. What questions do you have for me?”
Mrs. Johnson: “Well, now that he’s six months old, and I’m wondering if now is the time to start using his car seat.”
Trusted Pediatrician: “Now? You should have been using a car seat all along, every time. We’ve talked about that, it’s on our handouts, it’s on the sheet from the hospital, it’s recommended by every health authority in the entire world.”
Mrs. Johnson: “Oh I know that. But I did my research on Google. So I know young babies aren’t yet developed enough to use a car seat. That’s why I waited.”
Trusted Pediatrician: “Car seats are specifically designed and tested in little babies. They really need to be in a car seat to be safe in the car.”
Mrs. Johnson: “Hm. OK. That’s not what they said on CarSeatInformation.com. Well, anyway, if I do use a car seat, I was wondering when I need to use it. I was thinking of only using it when I’m driving in mid afternoon, and definitely not in the morning. But what about dusk?”
Trusted Pediatrician: “You should always use a car seat, all the time. It’s the safe way for Bobby to travel.”
Mrs. Johnson: “No, I did my research. I went to InformationOnCarSeats.com, and I know not all accidents kill babies, only some of them. So I know I shouldn’t use the car seat all the time. What I want to know is, when should I use it? Probably not at dusk. But maybe during the morning drive? Or maybe after I visit Aunt Frieda.”
Trusted Pediatrician: “Well, I suppose it’s true that not all accidents kill babies. But some accidents do. So it’s safest to use it all of the time, all the time, every time you drive. See, you don’t know what kind of accident you might get into.”
Mrs. Johnson: “Oh, I’m not going to get into any accidents. I drive safely. I always keep two hands on the wheel.”
Trusted Pediatrician: “I know you drive safely. And that’s good. But you don’t know what the other drivers might do, and anyone can get into an accident, even if they’re very careful. So you need to do the safe thing and use your car seat. Even on young babies, and all of the time.”
Mrs. Johnson: “Hm. What you say makes sense, and you have had years of experience, and I trust your other advice about sleep and feeding and development and behavior and everything, and you seem to have read a lot. But still. CarSeatsKill.com said that you’d say all that, and that pediatricians are all being paid off by the huge BigCarSeat industry.”
Trusted Pediatrician: “I don’t get any money from the car seat people. I even had to buy my own car seats for my own kids. They always rode in a car seat, just like I’m telling you.”
Mrs. Johnson: “I read on MisleadingScareStories.com that once this mom put her baby in a car seat and light reflected off of a semi-trailer truck’s mirror focused on the strap of the car seat and during an accident with a donut truck the strap caught on fire and the baby was burned and the EMS guy said that he’s seen that happen a million times.”
Trusted Pediatrician: “OK, car seats don’t work 100% of the time, and it’s possible that one in a million accidents, it might somehow cause a problem. But 99.9% of the time, a car seat will help keep your child safer. So using a car seat is the way to go.”
Mrs. Johnson: “You’re saying that a car seat can hurt my child .1% of the time? I’m not going to take that risk!”
Trusted Pediatrician: “By not using a car seat, you’re taking a much larger risk. See, 0.1% versus 99.9%, the choice is easy. Nothing is 100%, you have to choose the safest, and the safest thing to do is to use a car seat with every drive.”
Mrs. Johnson: “Didn’t I also hear that car seats are made with aborted kangaroos?”
Among the myths propagated by the anti-vaccine propagandists is that babies are somehow too young to be vaccinated—when in fact, the vaccines are tested and developed specifically for babies, to protect them when they’re most vulnerable. Waiting to vaccinate is like waiting to start using your car seat. It’s all risk, and no benefit.
Similarly, some anti-vaccine sites suggest you pick and choose which vaccines, as if you get to pick and choose which diseases your child might get exposed to. Drive safely, of course; but also wear your seat belt and use your car safety seat, all of the time. Accidents are called “accidents” because they’re accidental—you don’t get to choose which accident, or when it will happen. Anyone can get in a car wreck, and any child can be exposed to a disease that might kill him.
Protect your kids. Use car safety restraints all the time, and vaccinate, on schedule, using all of the recommended vaccines.