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Proper use of child seats can save lives

September 22, 2012
The Herald-Star

This week was national Child Passenger Safety Week and it is a good time to know proper child seat safety and to have your child's car seat inspected by a technician.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1-12.

Statistics show 70 percent of child restraint systems are used incorrectly. The most common mistakes include turning the car seat forward, not strapping the child securely enough in the seat, not securing the seat tightly enough and moving the child to an adult seat belt too soon.

In motor vehicle crashes, car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for children younger than 1 year old and by 54 percent for children ages 1-4, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2010 alone, 655 children age 12 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes while riding in passenger cars or light trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 64 percent of those killed in vehicle crashes were not restrained.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported two children younger than 12 are killed and 325 are injured each day because parents or caregivers didn't follow proper child car safety.

Many parents are overconfident about the safety of their young children in a motor vehicle.

Even parents who do follow child car safety may inadvertently be putting their children at risk because of unintentional improper selection and use of child safety seats.

The Jefferson County Health Department and the Jefferson County Women, Infants and Children program offer assistance to parents on the proper choices and installation for child car safety seats.

NHTSA offers the following car seat recommendations for children through age 12:

Birth to 12 months - A child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats. Convertible and three-in-one car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing a a child to remain in such a seat for a longer period of time.

Ages 1-3 - A child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. Once the child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, the child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

Ages 4-7 - Keep a child in a forward-facing car seat with harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat's manufacturer. Once the child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it's time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

Ages 8-12 - Keep a child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to properly fit in a seat belt. For a seat belt to properly fit, 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.

Select a car seat based on the child's age and size, and choose a seat that fits the vehicle. Use it every time. Always refer to the car seat manufacturer's instructions, read the vehicle owner's manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or latch system and check height and weight limits.

Keep the child in the back seat at least through age 12.

Children also will learn a valuable lesson that will hopefully be a lifetime use of seat belts.

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