Every Child Buckle Up

Each year, America loses more than 30,000 people to vehicle crashes. Tragically, children are not immune from dangerous or faulty driving or vehicle equipment. Next month, the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is participating in Baby Safety Month, sponsored by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). The goal of this campaign is to keep young children and babies safe by educating parents on the importance of correct car seat use, as well as the proper use of other baby products. Baby Safety Month coincides with NHTSA’s Child Passenger Safety Week, being held from September 17-23, 2017.

Child Passenger Safety Week aims to educate parents about using the right seat for their child’s age and size and to have their car seat checked by a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. It also focuses on the importance of registering car seats and booster seats for safety recall notifications. For children up to age 13, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death. For this reason, we must work diligently to spread the word about correct car seat use.

Which Restraint?

Using car seats correctly is essential for the safe transportation of children. But it can be confusing—in fact, NHTSA research has found that 59 percent of car seats are misused. One of the most critical aspects of a child’s car seat is the strap and harness fit. There are three types of car seat straps/harnesses:

  • Rear-Facing Car Seat: In a crash, a rear-facing car seat cradles and moves with the child. This helps reduce stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord.
  • Forward-Facing Car Seat: During a crash, the harness contacts the child at the strongest parts of the body to distribute the crash forces and to keep the child in the seat. The tether limits the child’s forward head movement.
  • Booster Seat: A booster seat positions the seat belt so that it fits properly over the strongest parts of a child’s body. This can help reduce injury during a crash.

It is also important to ensure your child is secure in his or her car seat. Rear-facing harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and should be placed through the slot that is at or below your child’s shoulders. Forward-facing harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be placed through the slot that is at or above your child’s shoulders. The harness and chest clip should then be buckled and tightened. The harness is snug enough when extra material cannot be pinched at the shoulder. 

Tethering for Safety

The Lower Anchors and Tether system was designed to make installing a car seat easier because you don’t have to use seat belts. However, in some cases, seat belts are the best option and may be as safe as the anchors system. Both the vehicle and the child car seat need to be equipped to use the full system.   Be sure to read your vehicle’s owner’s manual to find out where the system is located in your vehicle and to avoid confusing it with other hardware such as luggage tie-downs. The tether should be used for all forward-facing car seats in vehicles equipped with tether anchors. It helps prevent forward head movement and reduces injury severity.

During this year’s Child Passenger Safety Week, take advantage of National Seat Check Saturday on September 23. Parents can speak with Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians, who can help ensure that their car seats are properly installed and are being used correctly. Children are our future, and it’s our duty to keep them as safe as can be. This September—and all year—we will tirelessly continue with this effort. Check your child’s car seat today—it could save their life.