As children head back to school and families deal with hectic after-school activities, busy parents might unknowingly risk their children’s safety on the road. National Child Passenger Safety Week runs through Sept. 24, and AAA Northern California is reminding parents to properly restrain their children on every trip and avoid common errors made out of convenience or carelessness.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every day in 2009 an average of two children 12 and younger were killed and an average of 340 were injured in traffic crashes as occupants of passenger vehicles.
“Automobile crashes remain a leading cause of death for children,” said Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokesperson. “It’s important that parents consistently and correctly use the appropriate car seat to keep their child passengers safe. One lapse in judgment can lead to a lifetime of regret and heartache.”
The following examples are the most common hazardous shortcuts parents make while transporting children. AAA offers these tips to ensure child safety while riding in a vehicle:
“I’m driving only a few miles from home, so my son doesn’t need to be secured in his car seat.”
TIP: Since most crashes occur close to home, you should buckle up properly on every trip – no matter the distance.
“As a reward for good behavior, I let my 8-year-old daughter sit up in the front seat.”
TIP: All children under age 13 are safest when riding in the back seat and restrained in the appropriate child-restraint system.
“We will be driving more people in our car than we have seat belts. Since it’s a short trip, it’s not a big deal for someone to ride on another person’s lap.”
TIP: It’s never safe to ride on a person’s lap or share seat belts. All passengers should be properly restrained in their own seat belt on every trip.
“My son is 10 years old and 4 feet 6 inches. It’s safe for him to stop using his booster seat and only use a seat belt now.”
TIP: The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends children continue to use belt-positioning booster seats until they’re 4 feet 9 inches and the seat belt fits properly.
For many parents, the decision to move their children out of a booster seat and into an adult safety belt system is often confusing. Booster seats allow a lap/shoulder belt to properly fit children. Without this seat, children are at risk of being ejected or seriously injured in a crash because the seat belt alone cannot secure them properly. When is your child ready to move into the adult belt system?
Parents should use this five-step test to determine if their child is ready to move out of a booster seat into the adult seat belt system (you should answer “yes” to each question):
• Does your child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
• Do your child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
• Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
• Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
• Can your child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
As three out of four child safety seats aren’t properly installed, consulting an expert can be critical to ensure that children are secured in the safest manner possible. At select AAA branches, nationally certified technicians teach parents how to properly position and install car seats and provide booster seat information. To find an inspection location, visit www.aaa.com/carseats. For additional resources, visit www.seatcheck.org or call 866-SEATCHECK (866-732-8243).