You’re a new parent and life is now a little more interesting. You spend your days thinking about baby food instead of BBQ. You’re decorating nurseries rather than painting man caves. You may not know it yet but you’re favorite television show is about to change—from Scandal to Sesame Street.
And some adjustments are bigger than others. Making sure your child is secure while riding in a vehicle may be one of the biggest and—and most misunderstood—of them all. Safe Kids Worldwide estimates that nearly 82% of all car seats are installed and/or being used incorrectly. SeatCheck.org notes that children are safest when situated in the backseat, yet six out of 10 drivers believe that it’s okay for kids 12 and younger to sit in the front seat equipped with a passenger airbag. Nearly 70% of parents believe kids eight or younger don’t need the assistance of a booster seat, and only 21% of kids between ages 4–8 are “at least on occasion” using a booster seat.
Unfortunately, too many parents take these numbers for granted.
In the United States alone, more than 650 children ages 12 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and more than 148,000 were injured in 2011, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDCP estimates that proper child car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants by 71% and to toddlers by 54% in passenger vehicles. Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children aged 4–8 years when compared with seat belt use alone. For older children and adults, seat belt use reduces the risk for death and serious injury by approximately half.
In anticipation of National Child Passenger Safety Week, happening September 14-20, we’re taking cues from around the web on what you can do to make sure your child – and his or her car seat – is as safe as possible.
When it doubt, check it out
SaferCar.gov and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provide a convenient tool that allows parents to find the nearest car seat inspection station in their local communities. Simply search by state or zip code, click on a location and head to your destination. The site even provides an option for parents to find locations with Spanish speaking technicians. Many communities, including Mount Pleasant, are also offering free inspections during Safety Week, so be on the lookout.
When it comes to car seats, several factors come into play: height, weight, age, and type. There are four types of car seats to consider: The rear-facing car seat, the forward-facing car seat, the booster seat, and the seat belt. Also from SaferCar.gov: a list of car seat types and the benefits each has to offer for all age ranges.
Crash tests, not just for dummies
Consumer Reports writes about five ways to save your child’s life, which include proper harnessing, buckling up, and resisting the urge to text and drive. You can also check out a video on CR’s new car seat crash test, also being reported in the New York Times.
Time is on your side
About.com features a great interview with mother and Child Passenger Safety Technician Casey Leach. The certified CPST talk shop, and most importantly, when you should start talking car seats in preparation for your child. Spoiler alert: not too soon. Car seats depreciate the moment they leave the manufacturing house.
City by city, state by state
Each state has its own child passenger safety laws and Illinois has a number of specific guidelines according to the Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act. CyberDriveIllinois.com, a division of the office of the Illinois Secretary of State, has all the information you’re looking for, including age guidelines and a list of recommended quick links on the subject.