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National Child Passenger Safety Week

Question of the Week

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Q. My son is a very average 5 year old. He weighs 40 pounds and is 43 inches tall and thinks that he is ready for regular seat belts in the car. Can I stop using a car seat now?

A. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently established the clearest guidance yet on when to use booster seats. All children who have outgrown child safety seats should be properly restrained in booster seats until they are at least eight years old, unless they are 4-feet 9-inches tall. It is still just a guide - the real key is how well a seat belt fits the child - but this new guidance is a measure every parent and caregiver can recognize. If your child is not yet eight years old, he or she probably needs a child safety seat.

So no, your child is not ready for regular seat belts yet. A booster seat in the back seat would be a much better alternative.

Here are some other points made by the the NHTSA to help observe National Child Passenger Safety week, which is held each week during September:

September 19-25, 2010 is National Child Passenger Safety Week. We are reminding parents and caregivers in our community that all children should be placed in child safety seats, booster seats or seat belts-every time they ride in a car or truck.

Great progress has been made in increasing the use of child safety seats and booster seats, which has decreased deaths among children in car and truck crashes. But much more remains to be done.

Children 12 and younger should be buckled up in the back seat. The front seat is a more dangerous spot. Front air bags deployed in even minor fender-benders have seriously hurt and even killed some children.

When placing a child safety seat or booster seat in your car or truck, be sure to read the instructions so you install and use the seat correctly. Also, look at your vehicle's owner's manual to see what it says about installing and using child safety seats and booster seats.

Children, as they grow, should progress through three types of child safety seats before using the seat belt alone: from rear-facing seats to forward-facing seats to booster seats.

Infants must always be placed in a rear-facing car seats until they are at least one year old and 20 pounds.

Children between 20 and 40 pounds should be placed in a forward-facing car seat.

When your child outgrows his or her forward-facing safety seat, use a booster seat until your child is at least 8 years old or over 4-feet 9-inches tall. Seat belts alone are made for adults. A booster seat raises a child up so the seat belt fits. This will prevent your child from being thrown from the car, or thrown around inside it, during a crash.

Children who have outgrown booster seats should use seat belts.

Child safety seat use plummets after age 3. In one study, by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, one-half of 3- to 8-year-old children were not being placed in child safety or booster seats, where most of them belong.

Small children (aged 2 to 5) who are placed in seat belts rather than child safety seats or booster seats are 3.5 times more likely to be significantly injured in a crash. They are four times more likely to receive a significant head injury.

More than half (56%) of all children under 15 years old killed in car crashes in 2000 were completely unrestrained.

Unrestrained children are three times more likely to be injured than those who are restrained.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages four to 14.

Child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers (1-4 years old) in passenger cars. For infants and toddlers in light trucks, the seats reduce fatal injury by 58 percent and 59 percent, respectively.

Traffic crashes have psychological as well as physical repercussions. A study in the journal Pediatrics found that 25 percent of children suffering traffic-related injuries were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, as were 15 percent of their parents. This is a rate similar to that found among children exposed to violence.




Sources:

NHTSA recommendation, October 2001.

Partners for Child Passenger Safety. (2000). Partners for Child Passenger Safety: Interim report 2000. Philadelphia, PA: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Winston, F.K., Durbin, D.R., Kallan, M.J., & Moll, E.K. (2000). The danger of premature graduation to seat belts for young children. Pediatrics, 105(6), 1179-1183.

Traffic Safety Facts 2000-Children. NHTSA.

National Center for Health Statistics.

deVries et al., Pediatrics, Vol. 104 No.6 December 1999.

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How to Install a Booster Seat

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