In the United States, more children die from injuries suffered in car accidents than from any other cause. At least a third of these deaths are preventable if parents would only use child safety seats correctly.
Vehicle crashes in 2011 killed more than 650 children age 12 and younger and injured more than 148,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. About one-third of the children who died were not buckled in.
According to the CDC, each year more than 618,000 children ages 12 and younger ride in vehicles without using a child safety seat, a booster seat or even a seat belt.
Car seat use reduces the risk of death for infants under 1 year old by 71 percent and cuts the risk of death for older kids by 45 to 54 percent. But car safety seats and booster seats aren’t effective, and can even do more harm than good, if parents buy the wrong style or install them incorrectly.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that three out of four children are not as secure in car seats as they should be because the seats are not used properly. According to the CDC, a study of 3,500 car and booster seats showed that 72 percent were misused to the extent they could increase a child’s risk of injury during a crash.
Choose the Right Safety Seat
Parents can help keep their children safe by learning how to choose an appropriate safety seat, how to install it correctly and how to buckle their little passengers in securely. It is up to parents to educate themselves on the types of restraints required for their children from infancy until they are teenagers.
Parents should understand and use car seat safety ratings. The NHTSA has a five-star rating system that evaluates car seat instructions, installation, labels and features.
Child passenger restraint requirements vary based on a child’s age, weight and height, and come in three stages: rear-facing infant seats, forward-facing child safety seats for toddlers and booster seats for older children.
All 50 states have safety seat laws, with fines for violations ranging from $10 to $500 for first offenses. In Georgia, children younger than 8 must be properly restrained in an appropriate child passenger safety seat or booster seat while riding in a car, van or pick-up truck. A first offense carries a $50 fine and driver’s license points. A second offense can draw a fine of up to $100.
As long as children are using safety seats, parents should stay up to date on maintenance issues, defects and recalls and be ready to act on them. Parents should also carefully monitor safety seat fit as their children grow and replace the equipment as needed.
Children follow examples, and parents can help keep their kids safe into adulthood by being role models and always wearing their own seatbelts.