Child Passenger Safety Week / Seat Check Saturday
September 1, 2011
Child Passenger Safety Week is coming up September 18 – 24 and there are a few issues to be aware of as we think about how to best protect the most precious cargo of all.
A small but interesting study by the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics revealed that large number of children are unbuckling themselves from their child safety seat while the car is in motion, making their risk of injury in a crash up to three and a half times greater. What is remarkable is that some of those children who unbuckle themselves are as young as 12 months old.
According to the Yale press release, “The team found that 75% of children who self-unbuckle were age three and under, with an age range of 12 to 78 months. Unbuckling was reported as early as 12 months of age and was more common in boys than girls. Of the children self-unbuckling, 43% did so while the car was in motion. Twenty-nine percent of children who unbuckle are in a five-point restraint and do so more commonly from the chest buckle. The most common parental response to self-unbuckling while the car was in motion was “pull over, reprimand, and re-buckle the child.”
If you, as a parent or grandparent, find your toddler unbuckling their seat belt, don’t try to deal with it while the car is in motion. The safest possible action is to slow, find a place to pull over as quickly as possible and then, reprimand and re-buckle your child; trying to deal with the situation while the car is in motion puts both of your lives at risk.
In an article on this study in WebMD.com, Lorrie Walker, training manager and technical advisor for Safe Kids USA, an advocacy group was quoted as saying; “This study raises questions about how the child restraint was used,”. She went on to say that “Federal motor vehicle safety standard 213 requires the buckle to release using between 9 and 14 pounds of pressure. It is often challenging for an adult to unbuckle the harness.” She wondered if the buckle wasn’t adequately locked in some of those cases.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that as many as three out of four parents aren’t installing their child safety seat correctly. If you have doubts about whether or not you are properly buckling the harness or whether or not the child safety seat is installed correctly, there is a service that you can use to get training and guidance on the proper use of a child safety seat. NHTSA has a website called the “Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator“. In this site, you can plug in your state or zip code and find technicians who can show you how to properly install and use the child safety seat. These Child Passenger Safety Technicians receive training and certification based on a standardized nationally recognized curriculum.
Using the Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator, you can find a nearby Child Passenger Safety Technician, usually at your county’s Department of Public Safety or the local police or fire department. You will need to make an appointment with the technician and allow about 20 minutes to complete the training. Expectant parents should schedule an appointment about three weeks before their child’s due date. This is a free service.
You should remember also that child safety seats aren’t just for babies and toddlers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has determined that children are being graduated from child safety seats to seat belts too early. In small children, instead of resting low over their hips and pushing against their hip bones, the seat belt tends to ride up over their abdomen where it can cause internal injuries in a crash. Children who graduate out of child safety seats should move into a booster seat until they are at least 4’9” tall or anywhere from 9 to 11 years of age.
While talking about car seats, it is important to remember never to leave your child unattended in a car. Even when the outside temperature is cool, the temperatures inside a car can quickly rise up to more than 100 degrees on a sunny day. Kids and Cars.org estimates that, on average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles.