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Baby's First Ride: Local class provides car seat training

Car seat technician Jennifer Braun demonstrates how to properly place a child in a car seat. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)1 / 3
Car technician Jennifer Braun demonstrates how to secure a child's harness in a car seat. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)2 / 3
Car seat technician Jennifer Braun demonstrates one of the ways to secure the base of a car seat to a vehicle. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)3 / 3

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists motor vehicle crashes as a leading cause of death among children in the nation. They found that car seat use reduces the risk for injury in a crash by 71—82 percent for children when compared with seat belt use alone; however, improper use increases the chance of injury. In a nationwide study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found car seat misuse in 59% of participants.

Helping combat these statistics, car seat technician Jennifer Braun teaches a free car seat training class at CHI St. Alexius Health Dickinson for expectant parents.

She said she is often asked which car seat is the safest.

"They're all safe," she said. "It's just how you use it. Make sure you use it correctly every time and that you install it correctly."

All car seats must meet federal safety regulations to be sold. To ensure that your car seat is up to date with these standards, check the seat's expiration date, which is located on the manufacturer's sticker. Braun said that if the sticker does not have an expiration date, assume it is six years after the manufactured date.

She also recommends registering the car seat so that the manufacturer can inform you of any recalls.

One of the most common mistakes parents make when installing a car seat, according to the same NHTSA study, is using the incorrect recline on the seat.

"The recline is really important for your newborn until they can hold their head up," Braun said. "You want it at a 45 degree angle ... cause we don't want something where (the child is) going to be going forward, and their head is going to be coming down, cause that can impede their airway."

Braun said to avoid using padding or pillows that were not included with the seat, as they were not crash tested with it.

Also avoid placing anything between the baby and the straps, such as a blanket or heavy jacket, even in cold weather.

"Put baby in, in just a sleeper ... then once baby is tight in here, but the blankets on top after. When we use big bulky snow suits underneath the straps, it's kind of giving you the illusion that it's tight, but in reality, it's not."

North Dakota law requires children under the age of eight to ride in a child restraint (car seat or booster seat), unless they are four feet, nine inches tall.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a rear-facing car seat until the child outgrows the seat's maximum height or weight.

When this happens, children should ride in a front-facing car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight, followed by a booster seat until they are tall enough for a seatbelt to fit properly.

For future class dates, Braun can be reached via email at baby1ride@gmail.com.