Did you know car crashes are the leading cause of unintentional deaths to children in the United States? And of those children 8 years old and younger who tragically died in a vehicle crash in 2014, 26 percent were not restrained by an age-appropriate device, such as an infant seat, booster seat or seat belt.
During this week — Child Passenger Safety Week, observed this year from Sept. 18 to 24 — the car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles want to remind parents and drivers to take the proper steps to make sure children are as safe as possible while in vehicles.
“It’s vital we protect our loved ones any time we step into a motor vehicle and go out on the roadways,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn. “And our children are our most precious treasures. Please make sure they’re properly protected.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants by 71 percent and to toddlers by 54 percent. Booster seat use reduces the risk of serious injury by 45 percent for children ages 4 to 8 when compared to seat belt use alone.
Please review these tips, courtesy of the Safe Kids Worldwide, to make sure you’re protecting your loved one.
Choose the Right Direction
For the best protection, keep your baby in a rear-facing car seat until at least 2 years old. Exact height and weight limits of your car seat are typically on the side or back labels. Kids who ride in rear-facing seats have the best protection for the head, neck and spine. It is especially important for rear-facing children to ride in a back seat away from the airbag. When your children outgrow a rear-facing seat around age 2, move them to a forward-facing car seat. Some forward-facing car seats have harnesses for larger children. Check labels to find the exact height and weight limits for your seat.
Check the Label
Look at the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height and development. Your car seat has an expiration date – usually around six years. Double check to make sure it’s still safe. Discard a seat that is expired in a dark trash bag so that it cannot be pulled from the trash and reused.
Know Your Car Seat’s History
Buy a used car seat only if you know its full crash history. Once a car seat has been in a crash or is expired or broken, it needs to be replaced.
Make Sure Your Car Seat is Installed Correctly
Inch Test: Once your car seat is installed, give it a good tug at the base where the seat belt goes through it. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
Pinch Test: Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots. With the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.
For both rear- and forward-facing child safety seats, use either the car’s seat belt or the lower attachments and for forward-facing seats, remember to add the top tether to lock the car seat in place. If you are having even the slightest trouble, questions or concerns, certified child passenger safety technicians are able to help or even double check your work. Find a technician or car seat checkup event near you at safekids.org or nhtsa.gov.
Check Your Car Seat
Seventy-three percent of car seats are not used or installed correctly, so before you hit the road, check your car seat. It takes only 15 minutes.
Is it Time for a Booster Seat?
Take the next step to a booster seat when you answer “yes” to any of these questions: Does your child exceed the car seat’s height or weight limits? Are your child’s shoulders above the car seat’s top harness slots? Are the tops of your child’s ears above the top of the car seat? If the car seat with a harness still fits and your child is within the weight and height limits, continue to use it until it is outgrown.
Be Wary of Toys
Toys can injure your child in a crash, so be extra careful to choose ones that are soft and will not hurt your child. A small, loose toy can be dangerous and injure your baby in a crash. Secure loose objects and toys to protect everyone in the car.
We know that when adults wear seat belts, kids wear seat belts. So set a good example and buckle up for every ride. Be sure everyone in the vehicle buckles up, too. Buckling up the right way on every ride is the single most important thing a family can do to stay safe in the car.
The California Highway Patrol, together with Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Public Health, are hosting a free car seat check-up event Saturday, Sept. 24, in the Target parking lot on Mall View Road in northeast Bakersfield.