Parents and caregivers are busy with important day-to-day tasks, including making sure every child is safe while in their vehicle. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Region 7, which includes Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, is hosting its annual Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 17-23, 2023. The week is dedicated to educating parents and caregivers about the importance of correctly choosing, installing, and using car seats, booster seats, and seatbelts when transporting children in vehicles.
NHTSA encourages everyone to take an hour or so out of this safety week to double and triple-check their child’s car seat or booster seat. Ensuring that it is the right seat for your child’s age and size and that it’s installed correctly will make a major difference in the event of a crash.
“We hope that Child Passenger Safety Week will provide an opportunity for parents and caregivers to take a little time to ensure their child is as safe as possible when in a car, truck, or SUV,” regional administrator Susan DeCourcy said. “Sadly, two children under 13 were killed every day in 2021 while riding in vehicles, and more than 100,000 were injured. Every parent wants to be sure that their child is as safe as possible in a vehicle, so we hope they take this opportunity to check their car seat to ensure it’s still the appropriate size for their child and that it’s properly installed.”
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading killer of children, and the latest research from NHTSA shows that nearly half (46 percent) of car seats are misused. Using seats that are appropriate for the age and size of children and installing them correctly are the best ways to reduce these deaths. “Thirty-six percent of children 12 and younger who died in crashes in 2021 were unbuckled. Many of those kids could have survived if they were properly secured,” DeCourcy said.
Car Seats Versus Booster Seats
There is also a deadly misconception that a certain type of vehicle may offer greater protection for your child. Children are safest when correctly secured in the right car seat or booster seat for their age and size, regardless of the vehicle type. No matter how safe you think your vehicle may be, it is never safe, nor legal, to let your child ride unbuckled.
NHTSA recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible, up to the top height and weight allowed by the seat model. It’s the best way to keep them safe. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he or she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. After outgrowing the forward-facing car seat, a child should be placed in a booster seat until tall enough to fit in a seat belt properly.
Booster seats are an essential step between car seats and seat belts. These transitional seats position the seat belt so that it fits properly over the stronger parts of your child’s body. Don’t feel pressured to put your child in a seat belt too soon. If your child is ready to use a seat belt, ensure the seat belt fits correctly. Bottom line: The safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat.
Learn About Car Seat Safety Virtually
NHTSA hopes to empower parents and caregivers with helpful resources to make life easier. During Child Passenger Safety Week, you can find out if a technician is available in your community by virtual appointment or use many of the free, online resources available by visiting www.nhtsa.gov/carseat. Other resources include guidance on car seat types, recommendations, and comparisons.
For more information on child car seat safety, as well as how to find other virtual car seat check events, go to www.nhtsa.gov/therightseat.