Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Missoula, Montana: The most important task of a parent or caregiver is to keep their children safe. Part of that responsibility is ensuring their children are safely buckled up in the correct, and properly installed, car seats for their ages and sizes, whether they are riding with you or another family member. This choice could mean the difference between life, serious injury, or death for your children. You have a long list of things you do for your children every day because you love them. Making sure your children are safe, are in the right car seats or booster seats, and that those car seats are being used correctly every time, should be at the very top of that list.
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading killer of children 12 and younger, and that is especially true for minorities. More than half of children 12 and younger who died riding in passenger vehicles between 2013 and 2017 were minorities, with the majority of that group being Hispanic. In the last 5 years of available data (2013-2017), 2016 was the deadliest year for Hispanic children, who made up approximately 23% of all fatalities of children under 13. We know that now — more than ever — is the time to make sure your child is in the right seat, buckled up, and is in the back seat 100% of the time if they are under 13.
That’s why events such as Child Passenger Safety Week, being held September 20-26, 2020, are so critical in helping parents and caregivers learn about proper car seat installation, and how to use car seats correctly. Technicians can also discuss car seat selection with parents, if parents have questions about transitioning their child to another type of seat.
No matter how old your children are, they rely on you to keep them safe. When traveling, the best ways to protect them are to place them in the right car seats for
their ages and sizes, to install the seats correctly, and to ensure that the car seats fit properly in the back seat of your vehicle — every single time. Because the consequences of misused car seats can be disastrous, always take the time to read the car seat instructions and consult your vehicle manual. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly half of car seats are misused.
Research shows that when used correctly, car seats decrease the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in cars, and by 58% and 59%, respectively, for infants and toddlers in light trucks. Additionally, using the tether on a forward-facing car seat reduces the chances of injury in a crash.
As children grow and transition from one type of car seat to another, parents sometimes become less vigilant about ensuring that their children are properly buckled and are in the right seats for their ages and sizes. The latest data from NHTSA shows that when it comes to seat belt use, approximately one-third (33%) of the children who died riding in passenger vehicles in 2018 were not buckled up at all, with the majority of them being
children between 8 and 12. Tragically, the numbers are much worse for Hispanic children. In 2017, 44% of Hispanic children 12 and younger who were killed while riding in a passenger vehicle were not buckled up. Seat belts save lives. In 2017, among children under 5, car seat use saved an estimated 312 lives. A total of 371 children could have survived if they had been buckled up 100% of the time.
It’s also vital to stress the importance of child passenger safety to the people that your children may be in the car with — no matter how frequently or infrequently. Children need to be buckled in, and in the right kind of seat, whether it’s a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat with a tether, a booster seat, or a seat belt in the back seat — every trip, every time.
The highlight of Child Passenger Safety Week is National Seat Check Saturday, being held on September 26, 2020. On this day, parents, guardians, and caregivers can visit local inspection stations and car seat check events and have their children’s car seats inspected by certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians who can teach them how to install their car seats properly. Technicians can help parents and caregivers learn the correct installation method for their child’s car seat, and help determine if their child is ready to move from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat, from a forward-facing seat to a booster seat, or from a booster seat to a seat belt. The technicians can also show parents how to register their car seat with its manufacturer so that they’ll be notified in the case of recalls.
If you can’t make it to a National Seat Check Saturday event, you can still have your car seat checked at a Car Seat Inspection Station. To locate an inspection station in your area, go to www.nhtsa.gov/therightseat. The services these stations offer are available year-round, by appointment, and are free of charge.
Parents, guardians, and caregivers can also visit www.nhtsa.gov/therightseat to learn other tips on car seat safety, watch how-to videos, and sign up for car seat recall notifications.