Of all the risks that a child in the United States faces as he or she grows, the simple act of riding in a motor vehicle is the most dangerous in terms of deaths.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 through 12. Last year in Louisiana, 20 children ages 14 and under died in crashes.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission and our federal partners at NHTSA focus significant portions of our efforts on educating adults and youths regarding vehicle safety. One part of our efforts is Child Passenger Safety Week, which is Sept. 17-22 this year.
On the last day of this week, Saturday, Sept. 22, stations are set up across the state where parents and guardians can take their vehicles to be inspected by experts who ensure their child safety seats are properly installed. Visit the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission’s website at www.lahighwaysafety.org to see where child safety seat inspections are set up near you. Some of these operate year-round.
Louisiana and every other state require that children riding in motor vehicles be secured in a child safety seat. Those of us who work in the field of highway safety are very pleased that compliance with our Louisiana child safety seat law is high.
A survey in Louisiana last year found that almost 100 percent of infants observed in vehicles were secured in child safety seats. Compliance slipped a bit with older children, but remained higher than compliance with the seat belt law that applies to adults.
There’s no question regarding the effectiveness of child safety seats – they saved an estimated 8,959 lives from 1975 to 2008. However, their effectiveness is compromised when a child safety seat is not installed properly. Anyone who’s installed one of these knows that it can be tricky, especially on older model vehicles. You should thoroughly read and follow instructions in the manual that comes with your child safety seat.
Also, wwwsafercar.gov is one of many websites that offer instructions – including videos – for installing various types of child safety seats.
You can also view instructional videos by typing in”install child car sea” on www.YouTube.com.
It is important to keep in mind that you must change your safety seats as your child grows. Since some children grow more rapidly than others, you need to take age, height and weight in consideration when changing to a different type of seat.
In general, children should be kept in rear-facing safety seats as long as possible – usually until age 1 to 3 – depending on his or her size. When a child outgrows the rear-facing seat, he or she can be placed in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
Once your child outgrows the forward-facing seat, he or she can move to a booster seat. Kids can be secured with regular seat belts when the lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. And, remember, children should always ride in the rear seat of a vehicle.
Our message to you is clear: Use Child Passenger Safety Week to check your child safety seat for proper installation and to make sure it is appropriate for your child’s age and size.