Keeping Your Little Travelers Safe
Despite progress in car safety and child restraint
systems, automobile accidents are still the number one killer of
children older than a year, according to statistics from the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). To raise
awareness, the NHTSA has adopted February 10 through 16 as National
Child Passenger Safety Week. The goal is to educate caregivers on
the proper way to keep the littlest travelers safe.
Eight out of 10 kids are not
restrained correctly as parents make errors when installing child
safety seats. Just a little mistake in how the seat is used could
cause serious injury to a child.
With so many different child safety seat and
automobile models, it's difficult to determine which is best. What's
worse is that many safety seats are incompatible with some vehicles,
making it difficult to install and use certain seats properly.
- Safety seat not belted into the vehicle tightly.
- Safety seat harness straps not snug.
- Safety seat harness retainer clip not at armpit level.
- Lack of booster seats for older kids (the theme to this year's
Thankfully, an easier-to-install
model called LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) is on
the way. With the LATCH system, the child safety seat is installed
without using the vehicle's seat belt system. By September 2002, all
new vehicles will have standard LATCH-friendly hardware located in
the seats, and all child safety seats will have the proper
attachments. For older vehicles, the new child seats can also be
used with the seat belt to secure the seat (as is done
Important guidelines for child passenger safety
Booster Seats For Older
- Rear-Facing Child Seats for children from birth to at
least one year of age and at least 20 pounds.
- Forward-Facing Child Seats for children over 20 pounds
to about 40 pounds and at least one year of age.
- Belt-Positioning Booster Seats for children over 40
pounds to about 80 pounds and four feet, nine inches tall.
- Seat Belts for older children large enough for the belt
to fit correctly, which is at least four feet, nine inches tall
and about 80 pounds.
- All children under 100 pounds should sit in the back seat due
to powerful front seat airbags.
Many children, especially those between four and
eight years old, aren't using restraints that offer the most
protection in an accident. Booster seats are needed to make
adult-size safety belts work properly. Without the booster seat, the
safety belt is positioned incorrectly over the stomach and across
the neck, and could cause serious injury in an accident. Currently,
seven states have booster seat laws: Arkansas, California, New
Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and
There are several recommended types of booster
seats on the market, including the high-back belt-positioning
booster seat and backless belt-positioning booster seat. Seat belt
positioning devices are not recommended by NHTSA because they pull
the lap belt up onto the child's
Taking a vacation doesn't
mean taking time off from car seats. Bring child seats with you. If
you can't, rental car companies provide booster and child safety
seats for a small fee.
If you are flying, it's important to
restrain your children properly. Parents can either sit kids under
two in their laps for free or purchase a seat at the child's fare
and use a safety seat. While no airline can insist on safety seats,
it is much safer to use them. According to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), nine "lap"
kids were killed on U.S. flights from 1978 to 1994. Five would have
lived had they been in safety seats.
Most child safety seats
on the market today are certified for air travel (check the label).
Safety seats are recommended for use in window seats, but are
prohibited in exit rows and the rows directly in front of and behind
the over-wing emergency exits. Booster seats are not allowed at all,
as the design of the plane's reclining seat backs and tray tables,
and the lack of shoulder belts, make it dangerous to use harnesses
and booster seats.
For further information on child
passenger safety, please see:
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): Offers materials
explaining key issues in child passenger safety, including safety
seat recalls, technician locators, and fitting inspection
Academy of Pediatrics Family Shopping Guide to Car Seats
Boost America: Ford Motor Company and 29 leading
national organizations created Boost America, a highway safety
campaign designed to send the message to parents and children that
booster seats are the safe and fun way to ride in a
National SAFE KIDS
Campaign : This national organization is dedicated solely to the
prevention of unintentional childhood
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