Friday, September 24, 2010

National Child Passenger Safety Week

Here's a good article from Consumer Reports on securing precious cargo this week, which is National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 19-25, an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of using and installing child safety seats correctly.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death in children 3-14 years old, but many of these deaths are preventable. One way to help reduce the risk is to properly restrain children every time you drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that three out of four parents do not properly use child restraints, but research shows their use does save lives. Between 1975 and 2008, nearly 9,000 children were saved by the use of a child restraint. Research on the effectiveness of child safety seats finds they reduce fatal injury in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants under one year old and by 54 percent for children one to four years old.

The first step is to choose the correct seat for your child’s age and size. Infants must be in a rear-facing seat until at least one year old and 20 pounds. But the latest research shows that they are better protected if they remain rear facing for as long as 23 months and we recommend this as the safest practice.

Once a child outgrows the infant seat, they can be moved to a convertible seat. A convertible can be used in a rear-facing position, then turned to forward facing as the child grows until the child reaches the seat’s limits.

A child should be in a forward-facing seat with a harness until they reach the height or weight limits of the seat typically, from 40-65 lbs and 50 inches. After that, they should ride in a booster seat until the vehicle seat belts fit properly, which means the lap belt lies across the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt lies mid-way across the shoulder and chest (not against the child’s neck or off of their shoulder on their arm) . This usually is around age eight and when the child is around 4 feet, 9 inches tall, but will vary for each child. All children under age 13 should ride in the back seat.

Once you figure out which type of seat to buy, there are a number of resources that can help you choose the right model.
  • Check out Consumer Reports buying advice and Ratings on car seats for infants, convertible seats for toddlers, and boosters for older children. The ratings assess not only a seat’s ability to protect a child in a crash as determined from simulated crash tests, but also how easy a seat is to use and how it fits in a variety of vehicles.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) just published a list of the best-fitting boosters. A well-fitting booster should put the lap portion of the seat belt flat across a child’s upper thigh and the shoulder belt at mid-shoulder. Use IIHS list as a guide for fit, but remember that children come in all shapes and sizes, so you should do your own assessment with your child in your vehicle.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also publishes ease-of-use ratings for all car seats that meet their safety and crash performance standards. These ratings evaluate car seats in four areas: the content and clarity of the instruction manual, the ease of use in installing the seat, evaluation of the labels, and how easy it is to properly secure a child in the seat.

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