Editorial - Life-and-death knowledge for child passengersIf you are confused about how your children should be riding in your vehicle – what type of car seat they should be in, whether they should be wearing seat belts instead, or even the correct way of securing them – find out now. Don’t regret it the rest of your life.
If you are confused about how your children should be riding in your vehicle – what type of car seat they should be in, whether they should be wearing seat belts instead, or even the correct way of securing them – find out now.
Don’t regret it the rest of your life.
Minnesota passed its first child passenger safety laws 30 years ago. Since then, the success of car seat laws and increased use of child restraints have made a dramatic impact on child safety over the years, according to Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety data: In Minnesota since 2007, more than 15,000 children ages 0 to 7 years old were properly restrained and involved in traffic crashes, and a majority of those children (86 percent) were not injured and 12 percent sustained only minor injuries.
But in order to work, the restraint devices must be used properly. It’s a crucial step that too many parents are missing. “There is no debate when it comes to the benefits of child seats,” noted Heather Darby, child passenger safety programs coordinator at DPS. “Parents and caregivers have a huge responsibility to ensure their children are safe when they ride and step one is using the right seat that’s correctly installed.”
The most common mistakes, said the DPS, are:
--Turning a child from a rear-facing restraint to a forward facing restraint too soon.
--The restraint is not secured tight enough. It should not shift more than one inch side-to-side or out from the seat.
--The harness on the child is not tight enough. If you can pinch harness material, it’s too loose.
--The retainer clip is up too high or too low. It should be at the child’s armpit level.
--The child is in the wrong restraint. Don’t rush your child into a seat belt.
A child, the DPS warns, should progress through different safety restraints as they age and grow:
Rear-facing infant seats are for newborns to at least 1 year and 20 pounds. They’re recommended up to age 2. It is safest to keep a child rear-facing as long as possible.
Forward-facing toddler seats are for children age 2 until around age 4. It’s preferable to keep children in a harnessed restraint as long as possible.
Booster seats are for children from age 4 until they’re 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8.
A child is ready for an adult seat belt when they can sit with their back against the vehicle seat, knees bent comfortably and completely over the seat edge without slouching, and feet touching the floor. Children 4 feet 9 inches tall or more can correctly fit in a lap/shoulder belt.
In Minnesota, children must start riding in a booster seat once they have outgrown forward-facing seats, typically age 4. It is safest for children to ride in a booster until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8.
Booster seats lift a child up so seat belts fits them properly. A sign that a seat belt does not fit properly and a booster is still needed is if the child wraps the shoulder belt behind them or tucks it under their arm to avoid the belt rubbing against their neck. Fines for not using booster seats vary, but average around $50.
Too many parents are not taking the time to find out how they should be retraining their children in a vehicle. Of the 11 “booster-age” children who were killed in Minnesota crashes between 2007 and 2011, only three were properly restrained. Of the 2,120 injured, only 918 were properly restrained.
Taking the right approach to child passenger safety makes a huge difference. Of the 5,847 children who were properly restrained and involved in a crash, 84 percent were not injured.
Remember those numbers the next time you secure a child in your vehicle.