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Parents Still Making Five Common Mistakes When Using Car Seats

This week is Child Passenger Safety Week (September 16-22) so we’re calling on all parents to take a few moments to make sure their car seats are installed properly. Parents are making five critical, but fixable, mistakes when using car seats, according to new data announced today by Safe Kids Worldwide and the General Motors Foundation. With so many safety features now available in both cars and car seats, parents are urged to make sure their kids are getting every advantage by taking the time to do this 15-minute at-home annual checkup:

Car Seat Checkup Checklist

♥     Right Seat?     This is an easy one. Check the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height. Like milk, your car seat has an expiration date. Just double check the label on your car seat to make sure it is still safe.

♥     Right Place?    Kids are VIPs, just ask them. We know all VIPs ride in the back seat, so keep all children in the back seat until they are 13.

♥     Right Direction?   You want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, usually until around age 2. When he or she outgrows the seat, move your child to a forward-facing car seat. Make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors. Continue to use a booster seat until your child properly fits in the seat belt, usually when they are between the ages of 8 and 12.

♥     Inch Test.   Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the base. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.

♥     Pinch Test.   Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check car seat manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.

The at-home checklist is meant to be a first step. Parents are encouraged to read the vehicle and car seat instruction manuals to help with the checklist. Parents are also encouraged to bring their car, car seat and child to a child safety seat inspection station near them. For further information go to www.safekidsnewjersey.com.


Safe Kids New Jersey mourns the recent deaths of a grandmother and her four young grandchildren as a result of a tragic house fire in South Plainfield.  This certainly is a grim reminder that we should all take stock of the fire prevention measures in all of our homes.

Because young children may not perceive danger as readily or may lack the ability to escape a life-threatening fire, make sure they are not exposed to open flames or other fire risks, and take precautions to avoid fire in the home.

Here is a comprehensive list of fire safety tips:

  • Install smoke alarms in your home on every level and near each sleeping area or bedroom. Test them once a month, replace the batteries at least once a year and install new alarms every ten years. (Ten-year lithium alarms do not require battery changes each year.)
  • For the best protection against different types of fires, consider installing both ionization alarms (better at sensing flaming fires) and photoelectric alarms (better at sensing slow, smoky fires) or dual sensor alarms.
  • Keep children away from cooking and heating appliances. Make area around the stove a “Kid-Free Zone” (3 feet is a good distance). Never leave the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling. If baking or simmering, check on the food frequently. Never leave a child alone in the kitchen.
  • Keep matches, candles, gasoline, lighters and all other flammable materials locked away and out of children’s reach.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended. Place candles in a safe location away from combustible materials and where children or pets cannot tip them over.
  • Place space heaters at least 3 feet from curtains, papers, furniture and other flammable materials. Always turn space heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Avoid plugging several appliance cords into the same electrical socket. Replace old or frayed electrical wires and appliance cords, and keep all cords on top of rugs. Cover unused electrical outlets with safety devices.
  • Never smoke in bed. Extinguish all cigarettes before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Plan and practice several fire escape routes from each room of the home and identify a safe outside meeting place. Practicing an escape plan may help children, who can become frightened and confused, to escape to safety in a fire.
  • Sleep with bedroom doors closed to prevent smoke, gas or heat from entering the rooms.
  • Keep furniture and heavy objects away from doors and windows, so they won’t block escape.
  • Teach children never to hide in the event of a fire. Teach them the proper way to get out of the house: Leave immediately if you hear the smoke alarm, smell smoke or see flames. If there is smoke, to stay low and crawl.
  • Always feel doors with the back of your hand before opening them. If one is hot, do not open it; find another way out.
  • Also teach children never to go back into a burning building. Call 911 or the fire department only from a neighbor’s home or a cell phone outside the home. When firefighters arrive, immediately tell them if someone is inside or missing.

Winter Sports Safety

With snow comes outdoor activities like sled riding, skiing, snowboarding and ice skating. Thousands of children suffer injuries during these activities that may be prevented.

Helmets are essential for many outdoor winter activities. The risk of head injury is too great to leave the helmet in a closet at home. Helmets prevent or reduce the effects of 53 percent of the head injuries suffered by children while skiing or snowboarding.

Children should bundle up and enjoy the outdoors. Before heading out, it is important to remember a few key items in addition to the hat and gloves.

Safety Tip

Top Winter Safety Tips

  • Always wear sport-specific, properly fitting safety gear when participating in winter sports.
  • Kids should always wear helmets when they ski, sled, snowboard and play ice hockey. There are different helmets for different activities.
  • Parents should wear helmets too. Remember, your children learn safety habits by watching you.
  • Dress in layers and wear warm, close-fitting clothes. Make sure that long scarves are tucked in so they don’t get entangled in lifts, ski poles or other equipment.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink fluids before, during and after winter play.
  • Kids — or caregivers — who become distracted or irritable, or begin to hyperventilate, may be suffering from hypothermia or altitude sickness, or they may be too tired to participate safely in winter sports. They need to go indoors to warm up and rest.
  • Children under 6 should not ride a snowmobile, and nobody under 16 should drive one. All snowmobile drivers and passengers should wear helmets designed for high-speed motor sports. A bike helmet isn’t sufficient for a four-wheeled motorcycle that can go up to 90 miles per hour.

Avoid Decorating Dangers

In addition to food, family, and gifts, decorations are one of the highlights of the holiday season. While candles, Christmas trees, and other decorations are part of the holiday spirit, they can pose fire and poisoning hazards, especially to curious children.

The holidays are a time for spending with family and friends, not for rushing to the emergency room. Once all of your decorations are up, keep a close eye on both children and the decorations themselves.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.

Follow some simple safety tips to protect your family and your home.

Safety Tip

Top Safety Tips

If you decorate a tree, avoid these top decorating mistakes:

  • Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them.
  • Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.
  • Natural trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.
  • Never leave a lit tree or other decorative lighting display unattended.
  • Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets.
  • Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.
  • Do not burn tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.   

Top tips to prevent poisoning this holiday season:

  • Keep alcohol, including baking extracts, out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
  • Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach.
  • Artificial snow can be harmful if inhaled, so use it in a well-vented space.
  • Mistletoe berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach it.
  • In a poison emergency, call the national Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

Don’t Toy With Safety

Naturally, you want your children to have a safe play environment with safe toys.  Did you know that in 2009, there were an estimated 181,900 toy-related injuries?  And that children under 5 accounted for nearly half of these injuries? 

Do your children like small play balls and balloons? These kinds of toys account for many choking deaths.  Do your children like riding toys – unpowered scooters or tricycles?  They are associated with more injuries than any other toy group; in fact half of the toy-related injuries treated in emergency rooms were caused by unpowered riding toys.  In addition to other hazards, any electrical toy is a potential burn hazard. 

Make sure your children play safely by following some simple safety tips.

Top Toy Safety Tips

  • Be sure your children play with toys that are age-appropriate.  Read the warning labels before buying toys for your children.
  • Look for well-made toys
  • Check toys regularly for damage that could create hazards.  Repair or discard damaged toys immediately.
  • Make sure that discarded toys are out of children’s reach.
  • Watch your children while they play.  Be aware of potential dangers like small parts, cords and strings, moving parts, electrical or battery-powered cords or wheels
  • Do not allow riding toys near stairs, traffic or swimming pools
  • Teach children to put toys away after playing.  Toys intended for younger children should be stored separately from those suitable for older children
  • Make sure toy chests are open (no lid) or have safety hinges.

Keep Your Children Safe in the Kitchen – Thanksgiving and Year Round

Did you know cooking fires are the #1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries in the United States, with unattended cooking on the stovetop the leading cause?  Not surprising, Thanksgiving Day has almost three times the daily average number of cooking fires.   In fact, Thanksgiving Day fires in residential structures cause more property damage and claim more lives than residential structure fires on other days.

Because young children may not recognize danger or may lack the ability to escape a life-threatening burn situation, parents need to take the necessary precautions to make sure their children are not exposed to items that may cause fires or burns.

Safe Kids New Jersey offers these safety tips to help parents keep their children safe in the kitchen on Thanksgiving and throughout the year.         

Prevent Cooking Fires

  • Never leave hot food or appliances unattended while cooking. If you are frying, grilling or broiling food stay in the kitchen.  If you are baking, boiling, or simmering food, check food frequently.
  • Always be alert when you are cooking.  If you are under the influence of medication or alcohol, avoid using the stove or stovetop.
  • Keep anything that can catch on fire at least 3 feet from the stove, toaster oven, or other heat source. 
  • Keep the stovetop, burners, and oven clean.
  • Do not wear loose fitting clothes when you are cooking as they may catch fire from the stovetop.

Prevent burns and scalds

  • To prevent hot food or liquid spills, use the stove’s back burner and/or turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge.
  • Keep appliance cords coiled, away from the counter edges and out of children’s reach, especially if the appliances contain hot foods or liquids. 
  • Use oven mitts or potholders when carrying hot food.
  • Open hot containers from the microwave slowly and away from your face.
  • Never use a wet oven mitt, as it presents a scald danger if the moisture in the mitt is heated.

Keep Your Kids Safe

  • Create a 3 foot Kid Free Zone around the stove. Young children should be more than 3 feet from any place where there is hot food, drinks, pans or trays.
  • Never hold a child while cooking, carrying or drinking hot foods or liquids.
  • Hot foods and items should be kept from the edge of counters and tables.
  • Do not use a tablecloth or placemat if very young children are in the home.
  • When children are old enough, teach them to cook safely and always with help from an adult.

Did you remember to change your clocks & smoke alarm batteries?

When it’s time to “fall back” and change the clocks on Sunday, Nov. 7, make sure to check the batteries in all of your smoke alarms – it could save your life.

Did you know that having a working smoke alarm reduces a person’s chance of dying in a fire by half? For the best protection, install smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside every sleeping area, and in every bedroom. Smoke alarms should be mounted high on walls or ceilings, and tested monthly.

It’s important to replace smoke alarm batteries once a year, unless they’re 10-year lithium batteries. Even if your smoke alarms are hardwired, replace the batteries in case of a power outage.

To learn more, visit our Fire Safety page.