How safe is your child in your car?

In Virginia, over 1,331 crashes involved children under the age of 8 resulting in 13 fatalities and 1,637 injuries in 2017, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles stated.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), an estimated 328 children under the age of five were saved due to restraint use in 2016 alone. An additional 370 children could have been saved if they had been correctly restrained in a car seat or booster seat.

The week of September 23 through 29, 2018 is National Child Passenger Safety Week: a time to remind parents and caregivers to double-check their child’s car seat to ensure a proper fit for safety every trip, every time.

AAA Tidewater and other traffic safety organizations such as NHTSA recommend that children be approximately 80 to 100 pounds and no shorter than 57 inches before graduating them to a vehicle seat belt. In the state of Virginia, the law requires that all children under the age of 8 be properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat.

“Too often parents will graduate their children into a seat belt before they are ready. What they may not understand is that vehicle seat belts alone simply do not fit a child shorter than 57 inches,” said Georjeane Blumling, spokesperson for AAA Tidewater Virginia. “Placing a child too early in a seat belt increases the risk for abdominal injuries in a crash.”

AAA advises parents of children to secure them in rear-facing child safety seats for as long as possible, maxing out the upper weight or height limits of the car seat. Researchers indicate that toddlers are 75 percent less likely to die or be seriously injured in a crash when they ride in a rear-facing car seat up to their second birthday.

AAA recommends the following child passenger safety best practices:

  • Always read the car seat manufacturer’s instructions and vehicle owner’s manual.
  • Keep children rear-facing as long as possible until they reach the upper weight or height limit of their rear-facing convertible seat.
  • Once children outgrow the upper weight or height limit of their rear-facing convertible seats, they can ride in a forward-facing child safety seat.
  • Children should use a forward-facing child safety seat until they reach the maximum weight or height for the harness.
  • Children should ride in a booster seat until age 8 or older unless they are 4’9” tall.
  • Move children to adult lap/shoulder belts when they are at least 4′ 9″ tall (which usually happens between ages 8 and 12) and vehicle safety belts fit properly.
  • For all children under age 13, the back seat is the safest place.

For parents who may have questions or need help with this important check, AAA will be providing child safety seat checks at AAA Tidewater CORPORATE OFFICE, located at 5366 Virginia Beach Blvd in Virginia Beach, on Saturday, September 29 from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. The event is FREE and open to the public. Parents and caregivers can have their child’s safety seat checked for proper fit and security by nationally-certified child passenger safety technicians and instructors.