STATE – Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 3 to 14 years old, according to 2006 figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 8,959 lives have been saved from 1975 to 2008 by the proper use of child safety seats.
During National Child Passenger Safety Week (September 19-25), AAA Mid-Atlantic is reminding parents and caregivers to ensure their children are secured properly in the correct seats – every trip, every time. According to NHTSA, nearly three out of four child safety seats are not used properly, which is a grave risk when traveling.
“Securing your children properly in age and size appropriate child safety seats – in the back seat of your vehicle – is the most effective thing you can do to protect them in the event of a crash. Additionally, AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends that all child passengers under age 13 should ride securely restrained in the back seat where they are the safest,” commented Tracy E. Noble, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “In motor vehicle crashes, child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers.”
AAA now advises parents of infants and young toddlers to secure their children in rear-facing child safety seats for as long as possible, maxing out the upper weight or height limits of the car seat. Researchers indicate that toddlers are 75 percent less likely to die or be seriously injured in a crash when they ride in a rear-facing car seat up to their second birthday. “We have a critical opportunity to save young lives by empowering parents to follow these new guidelines,” said Noble.
AAA recommends the following child passenger safety best practices:
- Always read the car seat manufacturer’s instructions and vehicle owner’s manual.
- Keep children rear-facing as long as possible – into their second year of life until they reach the upper weight or height limit of their rear-facing convertible seat. This will usually be around 30-35 pounds.
- Once children outgrow the upper weight or height limit of their rear-facing convertible seats, they can ride in a forward-facing child safety seat.
- Children should use a forward-facing child safety seat until they reach the maximum weight (usually 40-65 lbs.) or height for the harness.
- Children must ride in a booster seat until their eighth birthday or weight of 80 pounds.
- Move children to adult lap/shoulder belts when they are at least 4′ 9″ tall (which usually happens between ages 8 and 12) and vehicle safety belts fit properly.
- For all children under age 13, the back seat is the safest place.
Consulting an expert can be critical to ensure that children are secured in the safest manner possible. Parents and caregivers can visit the auto club’s Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education website at www.aaa.com/foundation and click on the Child Passenger Safety link for additional information on child safety seats and resources for finding a certified technician to inspect their child’s safety seat and provide hands-on advice and instruction.
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