Child Passenger and Car Seat Safety
"The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released updated car seat recommendations for children through age 12", reports Key Biscayne Police Officer Vicki Hernandez. "We want to help you do all you can to best protect your child when traveling, We urge all parents and caregivers to have your car seat checked by a certified technician. When it comes to the safety of your child, there is no room for mistakes."
You may contact Officer Hernandez, a certified Child Seat Safety Technician, at (305) 365-5555, ext. 1128, for an appointment.
For a list of additional local inspection stations, visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm.
In motor vehicle crashes, car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for children younger than 1 and by 54 percent for children 1 to 4 in passenger cars, according to data collected by NHTSA. In 2014 alone, 602 children 12 or younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes while riding in passenger cars or light trucks. Thirty-four percent of those killed were unrestrained. Many of these tragedies could have been prevented if the children were in the right restraint for their age and size.
The updated recommendations emphasize how important it is to keep children in each restraint type for as long as possible before moving them to the next type. For maximum child passenger safety, parents and caregivers should visit their local inspection station to ensure their children's car seats are used properly:
Birth - 12 months
For the best possible protection, your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
1 - 3 years
Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. This may result in many children riding rear-facing to age 2 or older. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
4 - 7 years
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, itâ€™s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
8 - 12 years
Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.
- Select a car seat based on your child's age and size, and choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.
- Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer's instructions; read the vehicle owner's manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system; and check height and weight limits.
- To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer's height and weight requirements.
- Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.
Please help us keep you and your children safe by buckling up every time, even for short trips. For more information on Child Passenger Safety or to find a local car seat event, visit www.nhtsa.gov. For live updates follow @childseatsafety on Twitter or join the community of parents, advocates and safety experts on http://www.facebook.com/childpassengersafety.
Booster Seat Safety and Proper Installation
Officer Vicki Hernandez of the Village Police Department estimates that at least half of the children she observes riding in vehicles around the Key should be in a booster seat, and are not. Often those that are in booster seats are not buckled in correctly. The KBPD wants parents and guardians to know that it is NOT the booster seat that restrains the child, but the proper fit of the seatbelt.
A press release (PDF), issued in September 2010 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), is recommended reading for all caregivers of young children. The article rates the safety belt fit of 72 boosters currently for sale, reviews the proper use of booster seats and is illustrated with descriptive photos.
Florida law does not address the use of booster seats. However, a good rule to follow is to place any child between 40 and 100 lbs. in a booster seat. As stated in the press release,
"Boosters are better than they used to be at fitting lap and shoulder belts on 4 to 8-year-old kids to restrain them in a crash. So parents don't have to search as hard for a good fit for their child and vehicle. Most belt-positioning boosters, though, don't offer consistently good fit in all vehicles. This is the bottom line in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's third round of booster evaluations.
Researchers assessed the safety belt fit of 72 boosters, assigning the best ones the top ratings of BEST BET or GOOD BET because they correctly position belts on average booster-age kids in most vehicles. The worst performers are ones the Institute doesn't recommend because they do a poor job of fitting belts. A good booster routes the lap belt across a child's upper thighs and positions the shoulder belt at midshoulder.
The Institute doesn't conduct vehicle crash tests to evaluate boosters because boosters don't do the restraining in a crash. It's the fit of the belt that's important."
Two photos in the IIHS booster seat press release (PDF) illustrate the proper way a seatbelt should fit.
|GOOD BELT FIT
Boosters elevate children so safety belts
designed for adults will fit better. The lap
belt should fit flat across a childâ€™s upper
thighs, not the soft abdomen. Good
boosters have belt-routing features that
hold lap belts down and forward. The
shoulder belt should cross snugly over
the middle of the shoulder. Then itâ€™s
in position to provide effective
protection in a crash.
||POOR BELT FIT
Not all boosters provide good belt
fit. This lap belt is too high on the
abdomen, and the shoulder belt is
too close to the neck.
Hernandez adds that some parents are also under the impression that a child in the rear seat does not need a seatbelt. Florida law says that anyone under the age of 18 MUST be restrained, no matter where they are riding in the vehicle. The seatbelt must have a proper fit.
Booster Seats should always be secured when not in use so that they don’t become projectiles in an accident.