Despite the fact that all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and our territories have laws requiring the use of safety seats, booster seats and seat belts for children traveling in motor vehicles, many families in our country travel either without a child safety seat or are not using the seats properly. The misuse of child safety seats in automobiles drastically increases the risk for injury and death of a child during a crash.
Thousands of children are tragically injured or killed in automobile crashes each year, making car accidents the leading cause of death for children 1 to 13 years old. Though the use of car seats generally reduces the risk for death to infants by 71 percent and the risk of death to toddlers by 54 percent, child safety seats are often used incorrectly. Of nearly 3,500 child car seats studied, 72 percent of the seats were misused in a way that increased the child’s risk of injury during the crash.
In order to decrease the number of child injuries and deaths due to misused child safety seats in our country, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) acknowledges September 14-20 as National Child Passenger Safety Week, declares Saturday, September 20 as National Seat Check Saturday. On this day, groups around the country will organize efforts to ensure the vehicular safety of our children.
Each state has different laws regarding the enforcement and age requirements for different types of safety seats. Knowing your state’s law is important in order to protect your child from injury appropriately. The NHTSA has issued a “how to” guide on buying the correct child safety seat for your child. This guide, along with charts detailing car seat types, ratings for car seats, and instructions on how to install car seats, can be found on NHTSA’s website, www.safercar.gov. A few tips for child safety in automobiles include the following:
* Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, choose a seat that fits in your vehicle, and use it every time.
* Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions (check height and weight limits) and read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or lower anchors and a tether, if available.
* To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
* Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.
As children grow, the type and placement of their safety seats will change, progressing from rear-facing seats, to forward-facing seats, to booster seats, to seatbelts. Continuously using a safety seat throughout your child’s life will allow your child to grow up understanding the importance of automobile safety and the necessity of buckling up.
Though buying the correct seat is the first step in safety, the misuse of car seats regularly results from faulty installation of the car seat. Many cities have organized “seat checks,” where trained professionals will ensure that your car safety seat is properly installed.
In Montgomery, Ala., Beasley Allen Law Firm will sponsor its fifth annual Seat Check Saturday event as a part of National Child Passenger Safety Week. This FREE event for parents and child caregivers will be held on September 13 from 9 a.m.-Noon at The Shoppes at EastChase. Montgomery’s Seat Check Saturday will be presented in conjunction with Safe Kids USA, which will provide safety technicians to install and check seats, and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
To find a seat check location in your area, visit http://www.seatcheck.org/, and search your state or zip code.