Maryland — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 723 children ages 12 and younger died and another 128,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2016. This week is Child Passenger Safety Week, a safety initiative that aims to prevent many of those deaths.
I spoke with Laura Adams, a safety and education expert from DriversEd.com about the most common mistakes that parents make when it comes to child safety in their vehicle.
The biggest mistake? Not picking the right car seat. According to Adams, “When it comes to choosing the right car seat, it’s critical that you follow the manufacturer’s suggestions and match a product to your child’s age, height, and weight. This information helps you know when to transition from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat, and then to a booster seat.”
Once you have that car seat purchased, Adams reminds parents that installing it correctly is just as important. “According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 59% of car seats are not installed correctly. The most common mistake is failing to use the top tether for forward-facing car seats. If you need help installing a car seat, local fire and police departments often offer free inspections.”
Another mistake, moving kids out of safety seats too soon, Adams says some kids may require a safety seat until they’re 12. “The best way to judge when you can transition a child away from safety seating is by his or her size, such as being at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. This is usually from age 8 to 12, when seatbelts begin to fit correctly. Transitioning from a safety seat too early can result in injuries if a regular seat belt is positioned too high during a collision.”
Adams also says kids under age 13 should always ride in the backseat, properly buckled in, of course, because of the dangers from airbags.
She also says that newer vehicles are a safer bet for kids. “A good rule of thumb is that a vehicle shouldn’t be much older than a child passenger. Since newer vehicles have more safety features, that can help keep them safe.”
Parents who are having difficulty affording proper safety seats should check with a local police or fire department, a doctor, or a hospital social worker. Many of them offer free or low-cost safety seating. Check Baby2Baby.org, a network of charities that provide basic necessities for low-income families.