CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Every day in America, millions of parents and caregivers travel with children in their vehicles. While some children are buckled in properly in the correct car seats for their ages and sizes, many are not, if they are buckled up at all. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), two out of three car seats are misused.
To help combat this issue, NHTSA and the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) are promoting Child Passenger Safety Week. Observed during September 23-29, 2018, Child Passenger Safety Week is a campaign dedicated to helping parents and caregivers make sure their children ride as safely as possible—every trip, every time. The week concludes with National Seat Check Saturday on September 29.
“Every 33 seconds in 2015, a child under 13 was involved in a passenger vehicle crash,” said Amy Boggs, GHSP Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Program Coordinator. “Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep your children safe.”
According to NHTSA, motor vehicle crashes are a leading killer of children, and fatalities are on the rise. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference.
“In 2016, there were 328 children under the age of 5 saved because they were in car seats,” Boggs said. “Car seats matter, and having the right car seat installed and used the right way is critical.”
She added that, too often, parents move their children to the front seat before they should, which increases the risk of injury and death, even if they are buckled up. The safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat. Also, according to NHTSA, in 2015, about 25.8 percent of children 4 to 7 who should have been riding in booster seats were prematurely moved to seat belts, and 11.6 percent were unbuckled altogether.
West Virginia’s number of child passenger fatalities is low, with a total of 4 fatalities in 2017 for children who were within the age range of needing to use a car seat or booster. The GHSP’s goal is to have zero child passenger fatalities on West Virginia’s roadways.
“It’s our job to keep our children safe,” Boggs said. “Get your car seats checked. Make sure they’re installed correctly, and that your kids are in the right seats for their weight, height, and age, and are buckled in correctly. Even if you think your child’s car seat is installed correctly, get it checked by a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician so you can be sure that your child is the safest he or she can be while traveling.”
Boggs added that fitting stations in West Virginia will be hosting free car seat checks in conjunction with Child Passenger Safety Week. For a list of fitting stations, visit www.dmv.wv.gov/cps and click on the fitting stations link.
NHTSA recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible, up to the top height or weight allowed by their particular seats. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing-only “infant” car seat, he/she should travel in a rear-facing “convertible” or all-in-one car seat. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing size limits, the child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness (always use the tether). After outgrowing the forward-facing car seat with harness, children should be placed in booster seats until they’re the right size to use seat belts safely. And if children are under 13 years old, they should always sit in the back seat.
Remember to register your car seat or booster seat with the seat manufacturer so you can be notified in the event of a recall. Parents and caregivers can view more information on car seat safety and locate a certified technician at www.nhtsa.gov/carseat.
For more information the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program or the Child Passenger Safety Program, including a list of fitting stations, visit www.dmv.gov/ghsp or call 304-926-2509.