Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sponsors Child Passenger Safety Week. All across the country, parents and caregivers are reminded of important tips to keep their children safe in vehicles on the road.
Why is child passenger safety so important?
The answer to this question lies in the fact that car accidents continue to be a leading cause of death for children. In 2017, for example, 675 children under the age of 13 died in motor vehicle crashes according to the National Safety Council.
While it’s not possible to eliminate every vehicle-related child death, some are preventable simply by ensuring that children are properly secured in vehicles, whether it’s in a car seat or just by a seat belt. Since many of these deaths can be traced back to improper car seat usage or installation, it’s worth it to be reminded of some car seat basics.
How to ensure child passenger safety in a car seat
- Tight car seat straps are best. Obviously, you don’t want them so tight that they cause your child pain, but they are meant to restrain your child, not give them complete freedom of movement.
- Rear-facing seats as long as possible. At a minimum, keep your child in a rear-facing seat until age 2, or longer if you can. Some statistics have shown that in the event of a crash, rear-facing seats can lead to lower chances of leg injuries.
- Follow car seat manufacturer’s installation instructions. Each car seat comes with a manual – use it! When in doubt, ask for help. Your local auto repair shop may even offer periodic car seat safety checks.
- Center seat installation is ideal. The more central the car seat can be located, the less the chance of a direct hit during an accident.
- Register your car seat. When you register with the manufacturer, either by mail or online, you will be notified if there are any safety recalls that would require the seat to be repaired or replaced.
- Check expiration dates! Many parents don’t know it but car seats come with an expiration date. While it may be tempting to hand them down for use with the next child in the family, only do so if the seat hasn’t expired. Parts can deteriorate over time and your child’s safety could be at stake. Instead of using an unsafe seat, recycle your car seat – it’ll help your child and the environment.
To sum it up, child passenger safety is a big deal. Whether you’re the parent or a caregiver, you need to take full responsibility for the children in your vehicle. Follow the safety tips below and you’ll be doing your part to help lower vehicle-related child mortality rates.
Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Child Passenger Safety
- DO use the right car seat for each child.
- DO get your child’s seat installed and inspected at a car seat safety checkpoint near you.
- DO make sure children under age 12 ride in the back seat.
- DO make sure your children buckle up – NO exceptions.
- DO buckle up yourself – lead by example and your children will be more likely to follow.
- DO pay attention to car seat recalls.
- DON’T use an expired car seat.
- DON’T place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or near airbags.
- DON’T leave children in hot cars.
- DON’T use a booster seat before your child is ready, or stop using one too soon.