For your health: Parents reminded of importance of child passenger safety

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By Donny Gill


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 7,500 lives have been saved by the proper use of child restraints during the past 20 years. Yet, motor vehicle crashes still remain the number one killer of children ages 4 to 14 in America. The reason? Too often it is the improper use or non-use of child safety seats and booster seats.

On average, five children ages 14 and younger are killed and 640 are injured in motor vehicle crashes every single day. While 98 percent of America’s infants and 93 percent of children ages 1 to 3 are regularly restrained, not enough children ages 4 through 7 are restrained properly for their size and age.

Only 10 to 20 percent of children ages 4 through 7 who should be using booster seats to protect them are actually in them. Children ages 4 to 8 who are placed in booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a car crash than children who are restrained only by a seat belt, according to a study by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

As children grow, how they need to be secured in a car, truck, van or SUV changes. Moreover, when you’re an expectant mother, it’s important to always wear your seat belt to protect you and your unborn child. Wear the lap belt across your hips and below your belly with the shoulder belt across your chest, between your breasts.  Once your child is born, be a role model and continue to buckle up every trip, every time.

For maximum child passenger safety, parents and caregivers simply need to remember and follow four steps for kids: 

1)  For the best possible protection keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until age 1 and at least 20 pounds.

2)  When children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat, usually around age 4 and 40 pounds.

3)  Once children outgrow their forward-facing seat, they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest, usually at age 8 or when they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. 

4)  When children outgrow their booster seats, they can use the adult seat belt in the back seat, if it fits properly. 

What better way to show you love your children than to make sure they are secured properly. Make it the law in your car — it might actually save your children’s lives.

For more information about child passenger safety and the proper use of booster seats, please visit www.BoosterSeat.gov, www.SaferCar.gov or www.SeatCheck.org or contact the Hardin County Health Department at (270)765-6196.

Donny Gill is a health educator at the Hardin County Health Department. He can be reached at donny.gill@ky.gov.