·It’s National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 20-26
·15 Children Died and 63 Seriously Injured in Oklahoma Crashes in 2019
September 22, 2020 –– Every day in Oklahoma, too many children ride without seat belts or in car seats that don’t fit them or have been installed incorrectly. During National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 20-26, AAA Oklahoma urges all transporting children to be sure they are in the proper child seat or booster for their age and size, avoid common mistakes, and seek expert assistance with car seat installation.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), child restraint systems are often used incorrectly. An estimated 59% of car seats and 20% of booster seats are misused in a way that could reduce their effectiveness. Even worse, some children ride while completely unbuckled.
In 2019, 15 children died in Oklahoma and 63 were seriously injured in crashes, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO). A survey at 100 sites statewide last year by the University of Central Oklahoma showed nearly 10% of children were unrestrained while riding in passenger vehicles. Those most likely to be without proper protection were riding in pick-up trucks as well as those riding in the front seats of vehicles. When a driver of a vehicle was not wearing a seat belt, children were less likely to be adequately protected.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement on "Child Passenger Safety" advises parents to keep their children's car seats in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. Previously, the AAP recommended rear-facing car seats up until the age of two. Booster seats are to be used until age 8 with the vehicles seat belts protecting older children whether riding in the back seat or front seat.
“Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children,” said Leslie Gamble, AAA Oklahoma Public and Government Affairs Manager. “Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is essential to keep your children safe. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference.”
Car seat checks and education events are offered by Safe Kids Oklahoma. Visit Safe Kids’ Oklahoma’s Facebook page or call (405) 470-2304.
Seven Common Car Seat Mistakes
- Not using a safety seat. Whether an infant, toddler or booster seat-age child, parents should always use the appropriate child restraint system every time their children are in a vehicle.
- Not reading safety seat instructions. Three out of four child safety seats are installed incorrectly according to NHTSA. With thousands of combinations of child safety seats and vehicle belt systems, it’s important for parents to read both the vehicle owner’s manual and the child safety seat instructions before installing a seat.
- Using restraints for older children too soon. Parents frequently advance their children into the next stage of safety restraints too soon. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) car seat recommendations advises parents to keep their children’s car seats in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. Infants should remain rear-facing until they reach the upper weight limit of their rear-facing car seat. All children under age 13 should be placed in the back seat.
- Installing safety seats too loosely. When a child safety seat is properly installed, it should not move more than one inch in any direction. Parents should use either the vehicle’s seat belt or LATCH system to secure the safety seat—but not both, unless approved by the vehicle and car seat manufacturers. If using a seat belt, make sure it is locked to hold the seat snugly in place.
- Adjusting seat harnesses incorrectly. Safety seat harnesses should always be snug and lie flat without twists. Harnesses should be at or below the child’s shoulders when rear-facing and at or above the shoulders when forward-facing in order to hold the child’s body upright and against the seat. The chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.
- Gadgetry: If it didn’t come with the seat (or wasn’t purchased from the manufacturer to use with the seat), it wasn’t crash-tested with the seat. It therefore cannot be guaranteed to be safe and should not be used. This includes strap covers, mirrors and toys.
- Not replacing seats after a crash or using one without knowing its history: Check your manual to see if the seat should be replaced even after a minor fender-bender and even if no child was in the seat at the time. Also, never buy a used car seat, and never accept a free used one unless you’re sure that it’s never been in a crash. Even if it looks OK, there may be damages that aren’t visible. It is safer to buy a cheap, new seat than a high-end used seat. All seats pass the same pass/fail crash tests.