National Child Passenger Safety Week begins Feb. 11

  • Published
  • By Airman Jamie Neppl
  • 82nd Training Wing Safety Office
National Child Passenger Safety Week occurs each year during the week of Valentine's Day, bringing public attention to the importance of safely transporting children. Community, state and national leaders will kick-off the week Feb. 11 with the first-ever National Seat-Check Sunday in an effort to educate parents and to ensure all child safety seats are installed properly.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 7,500 lives have been saved by the proper use of child restraints during the past 20 years. Yet, motor vehicle crashes still remain the number one killer of children ages 4 to 14 in America.

The reason? Too often it is the improper use or non-use of child safety seats and booster seats.

While 98 percent of America's infants and 93 percent of children ages 1 to 3 are regularly restrained, not enough children ages 4 through 7 are restrained properly for their size and age. Only 10 to 20 percent of children ages 4 through 7 who should be using booster seats to protect them are actually in them.

But children ages 4 to 8 who are placed in booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a car crash than children who are restrained only by a seat belt.

Follow these questions to see if your child is properly secured in your vehicle:

Does your child ride in the back seat?

The back seat is generally the safest place in a crash. If your vehicle has a passenger air bag, it is essential for children 12 and under to ride in back.

Does your child ride facing the right way?

Infants should ride in rear facing restraints (in the back seat) until age 1 and at least 20-22 pounds Infants who weigh 20 pounds before 1 year of age should ride in a restraint approved for higher rear facing weights. Always read your child restraint manual for instructions on properly using the restraint. Children over age one and at least 20 pounds may ride facing forward.

Does the safety belt hold the seat tightly in place?

Put the belt through the correct slots. If your safety seat can be used facing either way, use the correct belt path for each direction. Check the vehicle owner's manual and safety seat instruction book for guidance.

Is the harness buckled snugly around your child?

Keep harness straps snug over the child's shoulders. Place the chest clip at armpit level.

Does your child over 40 pounds have the best protection possible?

Keep your child in a safety seat with a full harness as long as possible, at least until 40 pounds. Then use a belt-positioning booster seat which helps the adult lap and shoulder belt fit better. A belt-positioning booster seat is preferred for children between 40-80 pounds. It is used with the adult lap and shoulder belt.

How should a safety belt fit an older child?

The child should be tall enough to sit without slouching, with knees bent at the edge of the seat, with feet on the floor. The lap belt must fit low and tight across the upper thighs. The shoulder belt should rest over the shoulder and across the chest. Never put the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the child's back. The adult lap and shoulder belt system alone will not fit most children until they are at least 4'9" tall and weigh about 80 pounds.

When buying a used car seat poetential buyers need to keep a few things in mind. As a potential buyer for a used car seat, you have no assurance of how old the seat is or what has happened to it.

Note that you may not always be able to see visible damage on a child seat from a crash. Child seat experts say crash stresses can weaken a seat and make it less effective in protecting a child the next time there's a crash. If you are not able to confirm that the seat is crash-free, don't take the seat. Better to be safe than sorry. Ask the owner of the seat about this if buying at a garage sale.

- Make sure the used seat has not been recalled or in a crash. A seat that has been in a collision must not be used again. The NHTSA site has a list of child seat recalls, going back to 1991.

- Get all the pieces and parts that came with the seat when it was new as well as the instructions and any other manufacturer material. You will need them to know how to properly use the seat. You also will want to register with the manufacturer as the new owner of the seat, so you are notified if there is a recall.

- Children eat in their seats, and sometimes the crumbs and liquids work their way into child seat clips and clasps. Test them all out to ensure they're in good working order.

The 82nd Training Wing safety office offers car seat inspections and child safety advice, please call 676-7305 for more information