TRENTON – Troubled by the recent decline in back seat restraint use by children between the ages of eight and 18, New Jersey traffic safety officials reminded parents and caregivers of the life-saving importance of making sure children are properly buckled up in a vehicle, every ride.
According to Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer, in New Jersey the number of children and teens between the ages of eight and 18 who are properly restrained in the back seat declined from 53% in 2009 to just 37% this year. New Jersey’s current primary seat belt law requires passengers under the age of 18, regardless of seating position, to always buckle-up.
“Children are our most precious cargo,” Fischer stated. “As parents, it is our job to ensure their safety when riding in a motor vehicle. That task is particularly critical when you consider that car crashes are the number one killer of children and teens. Recognizing that our statewide front seat belt usage rate is at an all-time high – nearly 94% — we can and must do better when it comes to our children.”
As part of National Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Week, which runs from Sept. 19-25, traffic safety advocates across the nation are spotlighting the proper installation and use of child passenger and booster seats as well as lap and shoulder restraints for children.
“Clearly, we must re-double our efforts to educate both parents and children about the life-saving importance of buckling up, every ride, regardless of where you are sitting in a vehicle,” Fischer added. “Public awareness and education efforts, including Child Passenger Safety Week and the many programs and initiatives that are in place year-round, can help our children build a solid foundation for a lifetime of safe riding and driving behaviors.”
In addition, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly three out of four child safety seats are improperly installed in vehicles. During this year’s CPS Week, safety experts will be available throughout the state on Saturday, Sept. 25 to help parents and caregivers learn how to properly install and use car seats and booster seats in their vehicles. Known as “Seat Check Saturday,” the day-long event offers individuals free, educational information on this important topic, as well as hands-on assistance.
“Parents and caregivers are encouraged to take advantage of the wealth of information and assistance that is available on child passenger safety from police departments, and traffic safety and health agencies,” said Fischer, who is a NHTSA-certified child passenger safety technician. “It takes only a few moments to learn how to properly install and use a child safety seat or a booster seat, but those few moments could be critical when it comes to your child’s safety.”
In 2008, NHTSA reported that 244 children under the age of five avoided fatal injuries in a car crash because they were properly restrained in a child safety seat or booster seat. Between 1975 and 2008, a total of 8,959 children under five years of age were saved by the proper use of child restraints.
To further 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). At that time, they may ride in either the front seat or back seat, but must always be properly restrained.
Additional information on child passenger safety, including a list of permanent fitting stations, as well as those locations holding events on Seat Check Saturday, is available on the division’s website, at www.nj.gov/oag/hts/CPS-week_resources.html.
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