A Wake Up Call On Child Passenger Safety
The facts are sobering. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death among children ages one to 191, and children ages two to five who use safety belts prematurely are four times more likely to suffer a serious head injury in a crash than children in safety or booster seats.1 Even more disturbing is that of the children ages 12 and under who died in vehicle crashes in 2011, 33percent were unrestrained.1 And while most parents are diligent about securing their children in an age appropriate car seat, studies show that four out of five safety seats are used incorrectly, averaging a startling three mistakes per seat.1
Children begin riding in car seats shortly after birth, and while strapping little ones into their assorted car seats, booster seats, and seatbelts can become routine, it does not mean it is being done correctly. As a parent or caregiver, the biggest thing that can be done to ensure the safety of a child while traveling is to choose the correct restraint system, and ensure that it is installed correctly. The type of seat required depends on several factors, including the type of vehicle driven, and the age and weight of the child.
Car Seat Guidelines
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics and NHTSA
Birth – 2 Years
Children under the age of two should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.2 There are several types of rear-facing car seats to choose from. An Infant-only seat is used for a newborn baby until they reach the maximum weight limit. A Convertible and 3-in-1 car seat have a higher weight and height limit, which allows a child to remain rear-facing much longer. Convertible car seats can also be faced forward once the child reaches at least two years of age.3
2 – 4 years
Children should be kept rear-facing as long as possible. When a child is ready to face forward they should ride in a car safety seat with a five-point harness. Children should ride in the backseat with a five-point harness until they are at least four years of age.2
4 – 8 years
Once a child has reached the maximum weight and/ or height limits for a five-point harness seat, a child should be placed in a belt positioning booster seat. Booster seats should only be placed in the back seat, and should be used until at least age eight, or until the seat belt fits correctly without the use of a booster.2
8 – 13 years
Children are ready to ride without a booster seat once the seat belt fits properly. To check to see if the belt fits correctly ensure that the lap belt lies securely across the upper thighs, and not the stomach. Ensure that the shoulder belt does not cross the face or neck, and lies securely across the shoulder and chest.3 Children should remain in the backseat until at least 13 years of age.2
It is generally recommended not to install a borrowed or used car seat unless you can answer four questions beyond any doubt; has the car seat ever been involved in an accident, are all labels still attached to the seat, are all original parts still affixed to the car seat, and has the car seat ever been recalled?1 To find out about important car seat recalls visit Safercar.gov: https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/recalls/childseat.cfm
Even with up to date information, installing a car seat can be challenging to even the most conscientious parents. To ensure your child’s car seat is installed correctly, or for help installing a new car seat, consider consulting one of the following free resources:
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: http://icsw.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/
- Safe Kids Mobile Inspection: https://www.safekids.org/find-your-safe-kids
- Safe Kids Inspection Stations: https://www.safekids.org/find-your-safe-kids
What is the Law?
Car seat laws fluctuate betweenstates, be sure to check with the local highway patrol for requirements in your area. To ensure your child is following the latest safety recommendations (which always precede state and federal regulations), it is always best to consult your child’s pediatrician. Federal regulations may also be changing in 2014 requiring that car seats are attached via the seat belt and top tether rather than the Latch system if the combined weight of a child and seat exceeds 65 pounds.4 Check in with your local highway patrol for more information.
Additional Vehicle/Child Safety Tips:
While ensuring your child is secured in the proper seat is important, drivers should also remember the following safety rules:
- Always Check Behind Your Vehicle Before Backing Out: Accidents can happen when a driver fails to see a child when they are backing out of a driveway or parking space.5 Drivers should always check the back of the vehicle before turning it on, and that can mean getting out of the car to check. Use extreme caution when backing out, moving slowly while checking your blind spots continuously, keep the music off and the windows open while backing out.
- Never Leave a Child in Vehicle: Every year children die from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle. Always take children out of the car with you.5And never, ever leave keys in the ignition if your child is alone in the car.
- Lock Down Power Windows: Pinched fingers, arms, wrists, and strangulation are just a few of the dangers that power windows present.5 Most vehicles offer child safety locks for backseat windows, consult your owner’s manual for details on your specific vehicle. If you don’t have locks, teach your children not to play with them.
- Make Sure Seat Belts are Properly Used: Children can get entangled in seat belts if they are not properly deployed. This can occur if a child pulls a seat belt all the way out and then wraps the belt around their head, neck, or waist.5 Ensure children are always supervised within the vehicle and make sure they are securely fastened in the seat belt. Lying down with the seatbelt improperly deployed is a hazard.
- Lock the Trunk: Children like hiding places, and unfortunately playing in a vehicle’s trunk can be tempting. Trunk entrapment can lead to heatstroke, asphyxiation, and death.5Always ensure you lock your trunk after leaving the vehicle. Keep car keys in a safe place out of reach of children.
- Never Text or Phone While Driving: Texting and emailing should never be done while operating a vehicle. Talking on a phone should only be done with a safe hands free device, preferably voice activated.
- Teach Children How to Stay Safe: Taking the time to teach children about vehicle safety is probably a parents’ number one safety tool, inside and outside the vehicle. Make sure they understand the dangers of playing around vehicles and of the consequences of playing with buttons, safety belts, etc. inside the car.
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