Would Your Child’s Safety Seat Pass Inspection?
AAA Mid-Atlantic recognizes National Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 17-23); reminds parents of new car seat law in PA
PHILADELPHIA, PA (September 18, 2017) – Every day in America, too many children ride in car seats that have been installed incorrectly, or are riding in the wrong car seats for their ages and sizes. Even worse, many other children ride while completely unbuckled. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), two out of three car seats are misused. During National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 17-23, AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education urge parents to review Pennsylvania’s new car seat law, be sure children are in the proper seat or booster for their age and size, avoid common mistakes, and seek expert assistance with car seat installation.
“Car crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for children under the age of 14,” said Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep your children safe. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference.”
PennDOT reports that from 2012-2016, 82 percent of children under age four who were involved in crashes and restrained in a child seat sustained no injury. Car seats matter, and having the right car seat installed and used the right way is critical.
Just over one year ago Pennsylvania adopted a new law to keep kids safer in the car. Pennsylvania’s new child passenger car seat regulations, requiring that children be restrained in rear-facing child passenger restraint systems until at least age two or until they have outgrown the height and weight limits designated by the car seat manufacturer, took effect in August 2016 and violations result in a $125 fine.
“This new child car seat regulation makes Pennsylvania a leader in child passenger safety, becoming only the fourth state (at the time) to require rear-facing car seats for children until at least two years of age,” noted Tidwell. “Industry research, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board, clearly shows infants and toddlers should continue to ride rear-facing until they reach the highest weight or height recommended by the manufacturer of the seat. AAA has long supported strengthening Pennsylvania’s car seat law to protect our most precious (and vulnerable) cargo, our children.”
Pennsylvania Child Car Seat Laws
Children under the age of four must be properly restrained in a child passenger restraint system when riding anywhere in a vehicle (rear-facing, then forward facing).
Children age four and older, but under age 8, are required to be in an appropriately fitting child booster seat when riding anywhere in a vehicle.
Pennsylvania’s seat belt law mandates that children ages 8 to 17 must use a seat belt and it is recommended that children ages 12 and under ride in the back seat, because of the dangers associated with air bag deployment.
“Parents have the best of intentions when using a car seat but they may be placing their child in harm’s way due to simple installation mistakes, without being aware of it,” notes Tidwell. “Anyone using a child safety seat in their vehicle should educate themselves, even if they’ve been using one for years, to make sure it’s installed correctly.”
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. Safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). And, using a booster seat with a seat belt for older children instead of a seat belt alone reduces the risk of injury by 59 percent.
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 to ensure it’s done properly.
Using restraints for older children too soon. Whether it’s turning an infant forward-facing or progressing into an adult seat belt, parents frequently advance their children into the stage of safety restraints too soon The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers not be turned to face forward until they are at least age two and the maximum weight for the seat. 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.
To find a Pennsylvania State Police child passenger safety seat check event, visit http://www.psp.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx
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