MANSFIELD — Every day in America, millions of parents and caregivers travel with children in their vehicles. While some children are buckled-in properly in the correct car seats for their ages and sizes, most are not. If they are buckled up at all. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 46 percent of car seats are misused.
To help combat this issue, Richland Public Health has announced its participation in Child Passenger Safety Week, a campaign dedicated to helping parents and caregivers make sure their children ride as safely as possible … every trip, every time.
Child Passenger Safety Week runs Sept. 23-29, and is sponsored by NHTSA. Richland Public Health will check car seats throughout the week on a call-in basis — make reservations by calling 419-774-4726 — to raise awareness about the dangers children face when they are not buckled up properly.
“Every 33 seconds in 2016, a child under 13 was involved in a passenger vehicle crash,” said Reed Richmond, Health Educator and certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician at Richland Public Health. “Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep your children safe.” According to NHTSA, motor vehicle crashes are a leading killer of children, and fatalities are on the rise. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference. “In 2016, there were 328 children under the age of 5 saved because they were in a car seat,” Richmond said. “Car seats matter, and having the right car seat installed and used the right way is critical.”
Richmond added that, too often, parents move their children to the front seat before they should, which increases the risk of injury and death even if they are buckled up. The safest place for all kids under age 13 is always in the back seat. Also, according to NHTSA, in 2015, about 25.8 percent of children age 4 to 7 who should have been riding in booster seats were prematurely moved to seat belts, and 11.6 percent were unbuckled altogether.
“It’s our job to keep our children safe,” Richmond said. “Get your car seats checked. Make certain they’re installed correctly, and that your kids are in the right seats and are buckled in correctly. Even if you think your child’s car seat is installed correctly, get it checked with a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, so you can be sure that your child is the safest he or she can be while traveling.” Richmond noted that Stacey Nolen, Director of Community Health at Third Street Family Services is also a CPS Technician in Richland County.
NHTSA recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible, up to the top height and weight allowed by their particular seats. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing-only “infant” car seat, he/she should travel in a rear-facing “convertible” or all-in-one car seat. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing size limits, the child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. After outgrowing the forward-facing car seat with harness, children should be placed in booster seats until they’re the right size to use seat belts safely.
Always remember to register your car seat and booster seat with the car seat manufacturer so you can be notified in the event of a recall. Parents and caregivers can view more information on car seat safety and locate a certified technician at nhtsa.gov/carseat. For more on Child Passenger Safety, see the links on the Richland Public Health website at: https://richlandhealth.org/our-community/child-car-seat-program/