Keeping Young Car Passengers Safe
Due to safety initiatives, laws, education, and safer motor vehicles, the number of child passenger fatalities has declined over the years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported a 46% decrease in the number of fatalities in the 14-and-younger age group from 2002 to 2011. However, despite the decline in child passenger fatalities, motor vehicle crashes are still a leading cause of death among children.
The Importance of Appropriate Restraints and Safety Devices
While the use of child restraints, such as car seats, booster seats, and seat belts, can save lives, they can be rendered ineffective if used incorrectly. According to the NHTSA, 73% of child restraints are used incorrectly. It is equally important for parents to use the appropriate form of child restraint, which depends on the child’s age, weight, and height. When it comes to the weight and height limits of child seats, make sure to check the owner’s manual of the seat. Additionally, you should move your child into the next stage of child restraint if they reach the upper limits of their current seat, and remember: for the best protection, keep children properly buckled in the back seat, especially children ages 12 and younger.
- For newborn children and those up to age 2, they should be buckled in a rear-facing car seat.
- Children ages 2 to 5 should be buckled in a forward-facing car seat.
- Booster seats should be used for children ages 5 and up, until seat belts properly fit.
- Children can safely wear seat belts once they fit properly, which is when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt lays across the chest.
Safety Tips for Parents to Keep in Mind
Knowing whether to use a car seat, booster seat, or seat belts when it comes to your child is only half the battle. There are additional things to keep in mind in order to keep your children safe when they are passengers in a car.
- Parents should set a good example for their children by always wearing a seat belt themselves. According to the NHTSA, when drivers didn’t wear their seat belts, 63% of children up to age 4 were also unrestrained, but when drivers did wear their seat belts, 75% of children up to age 4 were properly restrained.
- Airbags can be deadly, especially for young children in the front seat, so it is important to not let your child sit in front of an airbag – that goes for children in rear-facing car seats as well.
- The middle of the back seat is the safest spot in a vehicle, so buckle your children there.
- No matter how short the trip will be – even if it is only a block down the street in your neighborhood – make sure to always buckle your children in their seats every trip.
- In all situations, but especially when a child is in the car, parents should exercise utmost caution behind the wheel. This includes following safety regulations, obeying the rules of the road, driving the speed limit, and refraining from use of distractions.