TRENTON—New Jersey will kick-off National Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 12 – 18, with a series of car seat inspections designed to help parents and caregivers learn how to properly transport children in their vehicles.
Known throughout the United States as “Seat Check Saturday,” certified safety technicians will be available at locations throughout the state on Sept. 12 to highlight year-round child safety seat programs. Provided free of charge to parents and caregivers, seat checks offer critical instruction in the proper use of child restraints in motor vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly three out of four child safety seats are improperly installed in vehicles.
“It’s the responsibility of every parent and caregiver in New Jersey to ensure that their children are properly restrained,” Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer said. “When it comes to the safety of young people, there’s simply no room for mistakes. Taking the time to learn how to properly protect our children in a vehicle can be a life-saving lesson.”
While the highest level of child restraint use both nationally and in New Jersey is for infants under one year of age, parents are encouraged to take advantage of the information available from state agencies, local police departments and traffic safety organizations as early as possible, to ensure they’re fully prepared when their new baby arrives.
Nationally, in 2007, an estimated 358 children under the age of five were saved by child restraints. If all children under the age of five were restrained, an additional 71 children would have been saved across the nation. In New Jersey alone in 2008, five children under the age of five were saved by the use of child restraints.
Fischer, a NHTSA certified child passenger safety technician, noted that parents and caregivers are the best role models for their children and can support the benefits of seat belt use by buckling up, every ride.
“We know that passengers and drivers who buckle-up are 75 percent less likely to have life-threatening injuries if they’re involved in a crash,” Fischer said. “This message is reinforced in young children when they see their parents and family members buckling up, no matter where they’re riding in a vehicle.”
Currently, New Jersey’s primary seat belt law applies to the driver, all front seat passengers and passengers under the age of 18 regardless of seating position. In addition, when the driver holds a Graduated Driver License all passengers, regardless of age and seating position, must buckle-up. Legislation that would require belt use in all seating positions regardless of age passed the Assembly (A-870) in February 2008, but has not yet been acted upon by the Senate (S-18).
A new web site, www.njbackseatbullets.com, was developed by the New Jersey Child Passenger Safety Coalition to further illustrate the dangers of riding unbuckled in the back seat. The site contains information on the lifesaving importance of always buckling up. The site also includes videos that reinforce the potentially deadly consequences unbelted backseat passengers face in the event of a crash.
To maximize child passenger safety, parents and caregivers should adhere to the following guidelines for determining which restraint system is best suited to protect children based on age and size:
• For the best possible protection, keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, up to the maximum height or weight limit of that particular seat. At a minimum, infants should ride rear-facing until at least age 1 and 20 pounds.
• When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at least age 1 and 20 pounds), they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).
• Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually when the child is at least 4’ 9” tall).
• When children outgrow their booster seats, they should be restrained in seat belts in the back seat (until at least 13 years of age).
Additional information on child passenger safety, including Seat Check Saturday inspection sites and a list of permanent fitting stations that parents and caregivers can visit throughout the year for assistance with their child seats, is available on the division’s website, at www.nj.gov/oag/hts/CPS-week_resources.html.
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