Editorial - How safe are children in your vehicle?Thanks in part to a new law, Minnesota children aren’t as likely to get hurt in motor vehicle crashes.
Thanks in part to a new law, Minnesota children aren’t as likely to get hurt in motor vehicle crashes.
The state’s new child passenger safety law took effect in July 2009 and requires booster seats – seat lifts that help adult seat belts fit children properly. Under the law, a child cannot be secured in only a seat belt until they are 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall – whichever comes first. It is strongly recommended, however, to keep a child in a booster until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. The fine for booster seat non-use is $50, but can cost more than $100 with administrative fees.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), the law has generated a jump in booster seat use and has led to fewer child injuries.
Here are the stats: From 2007 to 2009, only 44 percent of booster-age children (ages 4 to 7) involved in crashes were riding in booster seats. In the year since the law became effective (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010), that percentage of children in boosters increased to 59 percent. DPS says this increase resulted in more than 250 children who suffered no injury in crashes.
“Booster seats are critical to a child’s safety in a vehicle,” said Heather Darby, DPS child passenger safety coordinator. “Safety should not be short-changed for our youngest and most vulnerable.”
Despite the law’s initial success, there are still some parents out there who are not securing their children properly.
The consequences can be deadly.
Lack of booster seat use results in poor seat belt fit that can contribute to serious injury and ejection from a vehicle in the event of a traffic crash. Darby says a sign that a seat belt does not fit properly and a booster is needed is if a child wraps the shoulder belt behind them to avoid the belt rubbing against their neck or crossing their face. Belts should be low and snug across the hips; shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back.
Parents should take note of these restraint steps a child should progress through as they age and grow:
• Rear-facing infant seats – infants until at least 1 year old and 20 pounds.
• Forward-facing toddler seats – 1 to approximately 4 years old.
• Booster seats – starting after children have outgrown the forward-facing toddler seat, usually after turning age 4, and is recommended until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.
• Seat belts – older than 8 years old or taller than 4 feet 9 inches.
• Children should ride in the back seat until age 13; if riding in the front seat, passenger-side airbags should be turned off.
Parents should avoid these common child passenger safety mistakes:
• Turning a child from a rear-facing restraint to a forward-facing restraint too soon.
• Restraint not secured tight enough. The seat should not shift more than one inch side-to-side or out from the vehicle’s seat.
• Harness on the child is not tight enough. If you can pinch harness material, it’s too loose.
• Retainer clip is too high or too low. It should be at the child’s armpit level.
• The child is in the wrong restraint. Children must progress through the appropriate restraints as they age and grow.
The DPS also reminds parents that car seats are not designed to be used with bulky winter clothing, which can lead to a loose harness fit. It is recommended to use bulky coats and blankets above the harness, not beneath.
By obeying the law and following these simple steps, parents can significantly reduce the chances of their children getting seriously injured in a crash.
Echo Press editorials are the position of the newspaper’s editorial board, which includes Jody Hanson, publisher; Al Edenloff, editor; and news reporter, Celeste Beam.