TOPEKA (From AAA) -- Three out of four child safety seats are installed incorrectly according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. This leaves thousands of children vulnerable to injury and even death in the event of a car crash. In light of Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 18-24, AAA suggests parents learn and fully understand the different safety measures that are necessary to ensure their infant, child or pre-teen is safely restrained in while traveling a car.
"Parents should be sure they are following the most up-to-date car seat requirements for their child,” said Jim Hanni, executive vice president for public and government affairs at AAA. “They should be aware that just because a child is in a car seat, it doesn’t always mean the child is safe. It is absolutely necessary parents take an extra five minutes to ensure a safety seat is installed and used correctly every time to prevent children from being injured in a car crash.”
Below are AAA’s recommended safety seat guidelines that parents should follow depending on their child’s height, weight and age to ensure they are safely secured in the car:
Stage 1 - Rear facing child seat: This position supports a child's entire head, neck and back and helps reduce stress to the neck and spinal cord in a crash. New recommendations from March 2011 say children should travel in a rear facing position in the back seat of a vehicle until they reach 2 years of age or the maximum weight limit of their rear facing seat, typically around 35 pounds. This is a change over extending the previous recommendation to keep children rear-facing until 1-year-old and 20 pounds.
Stage 2 - Forward facing child safety seat: These seats include an internal harness system that provides even distribution of physical force over the child's body in the event of a crash. It is designed for children weighing between 35-65 pounds always following the manufacturer’s instructions. Harnesses should be snug and lie flat against a child's shoulders, and the chest clip should be positioned at armpit level, right across the sternum.
Stage 3 - Booster Seat: Booster seats ensure proper seat belt placement which results in a safer ride for children. AAA recommends this for children between the ages of 8-12 who are less than 4 feet 9 inches tall, following manufacturer’s instructions for height and weight limitations. Specifications vary by state. Booster seats should be installed in the back seat of a vehicle only. Be sure the lap belt fits low and tight across the lap and upper thigh area. The shoulder portion should come across the sternum and collarbone.
Stage 4 - Lap/Shoulder Belt: The last step is to have a child wear a seat belt. Parents should make sure a seat belt falls over the collar bone and chest and the lap belt fits across the hips and thighs, not the abdomen. Children under 13 years of age should always be properly restrained in the back seat. Require proper seat belt use for all passengers in every seating position in a motor vehicle.
Parents looking for more information on correctly installing their child’s car or booster seat can visit AAA.com/carseat. Consumers can also get their car and booster seat inspected by a professional to ensure it is secure. To find a local seat check expert, parents can call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK or go online to www.seatcheck.org.
AAA provides travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services to 52 million members nationwide. Since its founding in 1902, AAA has been a leading advocate for motorists and consumers. For more information about AAA, members and non-members can visit AAA offices in Topeka, Wichita, Manhattan or Lawrence, go online to AAA.com or call 800-365-5222.