Sheila Burgess, director of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security's Highway Division shared some tips on keeping child passengers secure in recognition of Child Passenger Safety Week.
To the Editor:
Would Your Child’s Car Seat Pass Inspection?
Securing your children properly in age- and size-appropriate car seats is the most effective thing you can do to protect them in the event of a crash. In fact, in motor vehicle crashes, proper use of car seats and seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by over 50 percent.
Nationally, among child passengers under age 4, child restraints saved the lives of an estimated 309 children in 2009 alone. Also during that year, 754 children 12 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes while riding in a passenger car or light truck and an additional 124,000 were injured. Among those children who died, 42 percent were not restrained in car seats, booster seats, or with seat belts. Many of these tragedies could have been prevented if the children were restrained.
Because car seats and boosters save lives, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require their use. Even so, motor vehicle traffic crashes remain the leading cause of death for children ages one through 12.
The good news is that a majority of parents buckle up their children in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts. However, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly three out of four car seats are not used properly, which is a tremendous risk when traveling.
That’s where NHTSA’s Child Passenger Safety Week can help. This annual campaign focuses on increasing awareness of these issues, and provides parents and caregivers with resources and information to better protect all child passengers.
For a car seat to do its job, it has to be the right one for a child’s age and size. Car seats also must be installed properly to provide adequate protection, and they must be adjusted to fit the child securely.
Not all car seats are installed properly. That means the harness straps may not be fastened tightly enough; or the seat may not firmly be attached to the vehicle; or a young child might be seated in a forward-facing car seat when he or she is still too young or could still be riding in the rear-facing position; or worst of all, a child may not be seated in a car seat or belted at all.
In addition, NHTSA recently issued updated recommendations to help parents and caregivers make those important decisions about which car seat to use at every stage of a child’s development. To keep your children as safe as possible:
- Children from birth to 12 months should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.
- Children between 1- and 3-years-old should be kept in rear-facing car seats as long as possible. Children should remain in rear-facing car seats until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
- Children 4- to 7-years-old should ride in forward-facing car seats with a harness until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
Massachusetts state law requires children up to 8-years-old to ride in booster seats until they are big enough to fit in seat belts properly, and that children over 8 must use a seat belt. For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. And very importantly, children should still ride in the back seat because it is safer there.
If you’re a parent or caregiver, don’t miss the many free Child Passenger Safety Week events being held at locations statewide Sept. 18-24. The week’s activities conclude on Sept. 24 with National Seat Check Saturday. For this annual event, parents can visit a free local car seat inspection event to have a certified child passenger safety technician inspect their car seat and provide hands-on advice and instruction.
Even if you’ve had your child’s car seat inspected before, it never hurts to have a refresher, especially with NHTSA’s newly released car seat recommendations. It could mean the difference between life and death. Visit www.mass.gov/childsafetyseats or call 877-392-5956 to find your local inspection station or child safety event.
Remember: All child passengers 12 and younger should ride properly restrained in the back seat, where they are safest — every trip, every time.
Sheila Burgess, Director Highway Safety Division
Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
Letters to the editor may be emailed to Chris.Tanguay@Patch.com.