It's Child Passenger Safety Week!

Baby Safety Month Partner, NHTSA, Shares Important Car Seat Guidelines

Every milestone in a child’s life is significant. Memories of a child’s first smile, first laugh, and first steps stay with a parent forever. The last thing any parent expects is for their child to not live to experience one of these special milestones. Similarly, drivers—including parents with kids in the car—don’t ever expect to be involved in a crash. Approximately every 33 seconds in the United States, a child under 13 is involved in a crash, and over the past 6 years, more than 3,000 children have died in vehicle crashes.

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 choosing and using the proper car seat correctly, as well as the proper use of other baby products, and creating awareness about the availability of certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians to check for correct installation of car seats and boosters in thousands of free inspection stations across the United States. Baby Safety Month coincides with NHTSA’s Child Passenger Safety Week, September 23-29, 2018.

Child Passenger Safety Week aims to educate parents on the importance of using the right seat for their child’s age and size, and to have their car seats 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. Research shows that when used correctly, car seats decrease the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in cars, and by 58 percent and 59 percent, respectively, for infants and toddlers in light trucks. Additionally, using the tether on a forward-facing car seat reduces the chances of head injury in a crash.

Which Car Seat or Booster?

Using car seats correctly is essential for the safe transportation of children—but it can be confusing. In fact, NHTSA research has found that 46 percent of car seats are misused. One of the most critical aspects of a child’s car seat is the fit of the harness. Below there are three types of car seats that parents and caregivers can use to help their children travel safely.

Rear-Facing Car Seat: A rear-facing car seat uses a harness to secure the child. 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: A forward-facing car seat also uses a harness to secure the child. 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, a vital part of the car seat installation, limits the child’s forward head movement in a crash.

Booster Seat: A booster seat positions the child so the seat belt fits properly over the strongest parts of the child’s body, the pelvis and across the chest. A properly fitted seat belt helps reduce injury in a crash, for both children and adults.

It is imperative that your child is secure in his or her car seat or booster seat, every trip, every time. In every case, harness straps should lie flat, and not twisted. In a rear-facing car seat, harness straps should be placed through the slots that are at or below your child’s shoulders; in a forward-facing car seat, harness straps should be placed through the slots that are at or above your child’s shoulders. Next, the chest clip—which should be positioned at the child’s armpit level—and harness can be buckled and straps can be tightened if needed. Make sure the straps are snug enough so that the webbing material on the harness straps cannot be pinched at either shoulder.

It’s important not to rush the transition of your child to the next stage of car seat. To maximize safety, choose to let them “max out” on the limits of each seat. And children under 13 should always sit in the back seat.

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 are always as safe as the anchors system, as there is no difference in safety between the two installation methods. Both the vehicle and the car seat need to be equipped for installation using lower anchors. Always read your vehicle owner’s manual to find out where the anchors are in your vehicle, and to avoid confusing them with other hardware such as luggage tie-downs. Always use the tether strap when installing forward-facing car seats in vehicles equipped with tether anchors. This simple step helps prevent forward head movement and reduces injury severity in a crash.

During this year’s Child Passenger Safety Week, take advantage of available car seat check events in your area on National Seat Check Saturday, September 29. We are pleading with parents and caregivers to make the choice to visit a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician at one of the thousands of free inspection stations across the country. Parents can speak with Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians, who can help ensure that their children are in the right seats, and their car seats are properly installed and being used correctly. Every parent wants to see their children grow and flourish, and keeping them safe is part of that equation. This September — and all year — we will continue to keep this message at the forefront of the child safety conversation. Protect your chances to make memories with your children. Take the time to get your child’s car seat checked, and ensure you’re using it correctly – every trip, every time.