Every year, one of the main goals of Child Passenger Safety Awareness week is to ensure that parents and caregivers across the country are safely buckling up and strapping in their children. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), properly installed car seats reduce the risk of fatal injuries for infants by 71% and 54% for toddlers. Wearing a seatbelt saves nearly 15,000 lives every year. The numbers are clear: this Child Passenger Safety Awareness week, take a moment to make certain that your family is taking all the necessary precautions to keep young passengers safe.
The NHTSA estimates that car seats save the lives of as many as 325 children who are using one when an accident happens. Car seats, booster seats, and seatbelts are all members of a leading line of defense against fatal car crashes, and yet auto accidents remain a leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 13-years-old. Generally speaking, babies and infants should first be put in a rear-facing car seat, then a forward-facing one, next a booster seat, and finally, a seatbelt.
A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to picking a car seat is to keep children in rear-facing seats for as long as possible. Data from the NHTSA confirms that rear-facing seats (when used effectively and appropriately) greatly reduce infant and child fatality and injury rates. Research shows that children up to 23 months old are as much as three-quarters less likely to die or sustain major injuries in a collision when they sit in rear-facing car seats as opposed to forward-facing ones. One of the main reasons they are so effective at preventing injuries is because rear-facing car seats effectively spread crash force across the back of the seat as well as the child in the case of an accident.
Ensuring that infants or children meet the height and weight requirements for a car seat is critical. Once a child becomes too heavy or too tall to fit a rear-facing seat, switch to a forward-facing one. After children max out the weight and height limits for rear and forward-facing car seats, it is time to pick the right booster seat for your little one. The primary difference between car seats and booster seats is that a child sits in a car seat and uses a 5-point harness restraint system. Unlike a car seat, however, a child sits on top of his or her booster seat and uses the vehicle’s seatbelt as a restraint system. Just like with car seats, children in booster seats should always sit in the back of a vehicle.
Children should remain in a booster seat until they reach the weight or height limit per manufacturing guidelines. After booster seats come seatbelts. Make sure that your child is big enough for the seatbelt to fit him or her properly. A seatbelt fits properly when the lap belt is snug across the upper thighs and the shoulder strap is snug across the chest and shoulder. When a child first starts using a seatbelt, be sure to remind them that the shoulder strap should not cross their neck or face and that the lap belt should be across their upper thighs, not stomach. The back seat is always the safest part of the vehicle in the event of the crash. Children should sit in the back seat for as long as possible.
If you worry that you did not install a car or booster seat properly or you need help installing a new one, there are plenty of helpful local resources available. Many states have certified technicians who will inspect car seats free of charge. Some technicians can also teach you how to install a car seat or will even install it for you. Oftentimes, technicians are available through your local hospitals, police stations, and fire departments. To learn more about finding a certified car seat technician who can help verify or install your child’s car seat, visit: https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats#/install-inspection.
There are numerous federal safety and health standards in place that govern the manufacturing and distribution of car seats and booster seats. Despite these standards, some car seats are defective or unreasonably unsafe and endanger young riders. If your child was injured and you have questions about filing a legal claim, contact a representative at our firm online who can help.
Galfand Berger has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.