While out and about, I am always meeting new people and watching others interact with their kids. (I'm a people watcher.) It seems that conversations often turn toward child safety, which is something that I am very passionate about. So, I'm going to address my top list of safety concerns and what to do to protect your kids.
Car Seat Safety
There are three main things that parents do that will cause more harm than good to their kids when it comes to car seats: turning the car seat to a front facing position too soon, not properly installing car seats, and not using the harnesses correctly.
Your child is safest riding backwards. Keep your child facing backwards as long as they are with in weight and height restrictions of your car seat. Don't worry if they're feet can touch the seat or if their legs are bent. They are still comfortable and their legs won't be injured in most accidents. Besides, isn't a broken leg much easier to treat than a broken neck? In fact, everyone (even adults) are safer riding in a car backwards. Most accidents occur from the front. Accidents that occur from the front cause the most damage. Having that extra support to your back, neck and head in an accident will prevent serious injury. If you are worried about their view...they can see just as much out the back window as they can out the front.
When installing your car seat, make sure that you are following the manufacturers directions. Use the LATCH system if your vehicle has it instead of using the seat belt. If you don't, then make sure that the seat belt is locked when you install the seat. (Most seat belts will lock if you pull them all the way out and then they will make a clicking noise as it goes back in. The lock will unlatch when the seat belt is rolled all the way back in again. If your seat belt won't lock, you can get a metal clasp to put on it.) When you get your car seat locked into place, put your knee into the middle of the seat and put all of your weight into it as you tighten the belts that connect the seat to the car. Do not allow the car seat to move if at all possible. The most 'wiggle room' that you should have (using all your strength to move it) should be under an inch! You won't damage the seats by strapping them in really well. The less amount of wiggle, the safer your child will be. Also, let the car seat rest gently against the seat in front of it. That will also give the rear facing car seat more protection when in a crash.
When using the harnesses, make sure that the buckles are clicked all the way in. Make sure that you use all of the buckles provided. Place the chest clip at the arm pits (most car seats have a picture on the clip that illustrates where it should go!) If you place the chest clip too high or too low, you will cause more injury to your child, even in a minor crash.
Car seats should not be used in place of a crib, bassinet or pack n play. Long term use of a car seat outside of the car for sleeping reasons is not safe because it can tilt the head into a position that can block or restrict their airway. It can also cause problems with the development of their skull, causing flat spots that have to be corrected with helmets if it gets severe enough. It also can cause them to get constipated or get back aches because their legs are at an angle to their spine. If your child needs to be elevated to sleep or needs to be close to you while sleeping, please use a bassinet or a sleep and rock type of product (the angle of the seat on the sleep and rock products is a less degree than a car seat, making it safer and more comfortable for babies to sleep.)
Shopping Cart Safety
Most people anymore have been told to not leave their toddlers in shopping carts alone. Toddlers are meant to ride in the front seat, preferably strapped in. Do not allow your little one to sit or play in the basket area. That is just tempting fate that will inevitably lead to some sort of injury. In fact, the AAPA suggests to not use carts at all with any child.
More importantly though, I want to talk about what makes my stomach tie up into knots every time I see it. That's when I see people with their infant car seats on top of a shopping cart. Whether it's across the basket area or on top of the seat area. Either way, it is extremely dangerous! Car seats placed on top of shopping carts will change the center of gravity on the cart, making it top heavy and more likely to tip over. All it takes is a person accidentally bumping it or it going over a bump in the parking lot or something laying on the floor of the store for the cart to go crashing down. Plus, even if you think the car seat has 'locked' into place like it does on the base in your car...it doesn't. The locking mechanisms are not made to securely fasten to carts, so even if you hear the clicking sound, it isn't really latched onto it. This will cause the seat to easily come off if tipped. Don't risk it. Put the seat inside the basket or onto a stroller. Or carry your child in a sling or carrier while shopping.
I can guarantee that if you ever did these around me, you'd hear an ear full. I have been known to stop strangers in the middle of a store to ask them to take their car seats off the tops of their carts. I have also been known to fix the straps on an infant carrier....with some pretty freaked out looks by the parents until they realized what I was doing.
All of the horrible statistics can easily be avoided just by taking those extra 10 seconds to ensure your child's safety. It is so easy to think, "Just this once" or "I'll just be a minute" or "Everyone else does it and they seem fine." I hope from what I said above that you'll see that no one intends for bad things to happen and for those that it had happened to, they all wish they would have taken that little extra step.