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Holding On To Dear Life: Car Seat and Seat Belt Safety for Children

"Almost 90 people on average lose their lives each day – and more than 250 are injured every hour – due to drunk driving, not wearing a seatbelt, and the many other factors associated with traffic crashes."

This is a quote from David Friedman, Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While we know traffic crashes are a leading cause of death and injury for adults, you may find it surprising to learn that motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death among children ages 1 to 19. Perhaps the most shocking statistic for me: of children ages 8 and under who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2012, 31 percent were unrestrained. (1)

Proper safety seat and seat belt use is as important to safe driving as putting down your mobile device. According to the NHTSA: (2)

  • In 2012, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 12,174 lives.
  • Seat belts have saved nearly 63,000 lives during the 5-year period from 2008 to 2012.
  • An additional 3,031 lives would have been saved in 2012 if all unrestrained passenger vehicle occupants five and older involved in fatal crashes had worn their seat belts.

Securing children in car and booster seats or seat belts that are appropriate for their age and size can greatly reduce the risk of serious and fatal injuries. Here are some car safety seat guidelines courtesy of safekids.org:

  • 1 - 3 years of age: Keep your child rear facing as long as possible.
  • 4 - 7 years of age: Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.
  • 8 and older: Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember, your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

Don’t make the “it won’t happen to me or mine” mistake. Use safety seats consistently and follow guidelines when considering when a child should be moved from one type of seat to another. Some other things to keep in mind:

  • Be careful about using an old or secondhand seat. The seats should conform to the same safety standards expected from a new seat.
  • Do some research before purchasing a seat. Read reviews about the product.
  • Make sure you install the seat correctly and take the time to be sure that everything is secure. Many fire stations will check your seat free of charge to make sure it is installed correctly. You can also refer to safercar.org for more information.

The world is in a hurry, but your destination can wait if it means saving a life. Babies and children are relying on you to make sure they are in the correct seat and buckled up safely. Don't let them down!

(1) Motor Vehicle Safety Fact Sheet (2014). safekids.org. (updated February 2015)

(2) Traffic Safety Facts. nhtsa.gov. Nov 2013.

Post authored by Sandra Kenison. Originally published January 27, 2015. View original post at: http://wp.me/p1Iv7E-1O9 

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