TOPEKA, Kan. – Sept. 21, 2018 – Every day in America, millions of parents and caregivers travel with children in their vehicles. While some children are buckled in properly in the correct car seats for their ages and sizes – most are not, if they are buckled up at all.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), two out of three car seats are misused. To help bring awareness to this issue, NHTSA and AAA Kansas are reminding parents of the importance of properly restraining their most precious cargo, during Child Passenger Safety Week, September 23-29, 2018.
Tragically, motor vehicle crashes continue to be a leading killer of children, and every 33 seconds in 2015, a child under 13 was involved in a passenger vehicle crash. In Kansas, of the 77 children, ages 4-13, who died in vehicle crashes between 2006 and 2016, only 36 or 46.8 percent, were using safety restraints. During that same 11-year period, 9,818 4- to 13-year-old passengers were injured in vehicle crashes, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
The good news is that when installed correctly, car seats and boosters are one of the easiest ways to keep your child safe. When properly installed, car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers, according to NHTSA.
“Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate, every trip, every time is the best way to keep children safe,” said Jennifer Haugh, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Kansas. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference. According to NHTSA, in 2016, 328 children under the age of five were saved because they were in car seats.
NHTSA data also shows that as children get older, they are less likely to want to buckle up. Over the past 5 years, 1,552 kids between the ages of 8 and 14 died in car, SUV and van crashes. Of those who died, almost half were unbelted.
Parents need to consistently ensure seatbelt compliance for themselves and their tween children. “While parenting is full of compromises, seat belt safety for our children is non-negotiable,” AAA Kansas’ Haugh said.
Unfortunately, another safety issue with child passengers is that they are often prematurely placed in seat belts. In 2015, approximately 25.8 percent of children between the ages of four and seven, who should have been riding in booster seats were prematurely moved to seat belts, and 11.6 percent were unbuckled altogether.
“Too often, parents move their children to the front seat before they should, which increases the risk of injury and death, even if they are buckled up. The safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat,” AAA Kansas’ Haugh said.
NHTSA recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible, up to the top height or weight allowed by their particular seats. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing-only “infant” car seat, he/she should travel in a rear-facing “convertible” or all-in-one car seat. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing size limits, the child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness (always use the tether). After outgrowing the forward-facing car seat with harness, children should be placed in booster seats until they’re the right size to use seat belts safely. If children are under 13 years old, they should always sit in the back seat.
“Get your car seats checked. Make certain they’re installed correctly, and that your kids are in the correct seats and are buckled in correctly,” AAA Kansas’ Haugh said. “Even if you think your child’s car seat is installed correctly, get it checked with a law enforcement officer or child passenger safety technician, so you can be sure that your child is the safest he or she can be while traveling.”
Remember to register your car seat or booster seat with the seat manufacturer so you can be notified in the event of a recall. Parents and caregivers can view more information on car seat safety and locate a certified car seat technician on the Safe Seats 4 Kids website at https://safeseats4kids.aaa.com/car-seat-guide/.