Car Seat Safety
Child safety seats reduce fatal injuries by 71 percent among infants and 54 percent among toddlers, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
But unfortunately an average of seven children ages 0 to 14 are still killed each day in motor vehicle crashes and another 872 are injured. And of the 550 children under 5 who were killed in 1999 (the most recent year statistics are available), more than half (291) were totally unrestrained.
Consider these tips for keeping your children safe while riding in the car:
- Rear-facing car seats with a five-point restraint system is recommended for all infants and children up to 2 years of age. They should not be converted to forward-facing seats until the child is 2 years old.
- Any child who is 12 years old or younger is safest sitting in the back seat. Every child should be buckled in a child safety seat, booster seat or with a lap/shoulder belt if it fits properly.
- It is estimated that more than half of the child safety seats used today are not installed correctly. Always read the child seat instructions and the car owner's manual. To ensure a snug fit, pull the base to either side or toward the front of the car.
- Adjust the harness to fit snugly. Avoid using blankets or a bulky snowsuit under straps — they make it impossible to get the harness snug enough to secure baby in a crash.
- Babies riding in a car must never face front because a baby's neck can be hurt badly in a crash or during a sudden stop.
- Infants in car seats must never ride in the front seat with an air bag. In a crash, the air bag can hit the car seat and hurt or kill the baby.
- Never hold your baby in your lap when you are riding in a car. In a crash or during a sudden stop, your baby can be seriously injured or killed.
- If a tether strap, which holds the top of the front-facing seat in place, is available, anchor it to a bracket installed behind the seat.
- Call your car seat manufacturer for a tether and your vehicle dealer about installation. Most new cars, starting with 2000 model year vehicles, have tether anchors, as do most 2001 vans, SUVs and pickup trucks. Most 1989-99 vehicles have tether anchor kits available.
- Some are free and some dealers will install them at no charge. They are also easy to install yourself in many vehicles.
- Children weighing more than 40 pounds and under 57 inches tall should ride in a booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder belts fit properly without the booster. The lap belt must fit low and snug on their hips and the shoulder belt must not cross their face or neck.
- Never put the shoulder belt behind their back or under their arm.
Links & Resources
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- Child Passenger Safety Web
- Massachusetts Governor's Highway Safety Bureau
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (for car seat recalls)
- Safety Belt Safe USA