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Child Passenger Safety: Protecting Our Most Precious Cargo
New Jersey has been on the cutting edge in instituting passenger safety laws that have helped to significantly reduce the number of deaths and injuries to young children. “Clicking” the car seat belt has become second nature when entering a car and a standard in our culture. A car seat has become a staple necessary to welcome a new baby into the family.
However, there are still many preventable car related deaths and injuries each year. Among children ages 2 to 14, motor vehicle accidents continue to be the number one cause of death. Many are due to the lack of an appropriate car seat or improper use of one. Children most at risk are young school age children that no longer fit in a car seat but still need to be in a booster seat as well as young children that are allowed to sit in the front seat.
Young children need to be in a booster seat because car seat belts are made to fit adult sized people and do not sufficiently protect young children. When small children are only restrained with a lap belt or lap/shoulder belt they risk suffering abdominal and/or spinal injuries if involved in a car crash. This is as a result of the belt riding up onto the abdomen, allowing the pelvis to slide under the belt, and then placing pressure directly onto abdominal organs.
So, a child that has outgrown the forward-facing car seat, usually around age 4, still needs to be secured in a booster seat in order for the lap/shoulder belt to fit properly. This is usually until he has reached 58 inches tall, has a sitting height of 29 inches, and weighs 80 lbs. Let’s take some time to review how well we are protecting our most precious cargo using the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s 4-Step checklist.
Infants are best protected in the back of the car in a rear-facing car seat up until they reach the height and weight limit of the car seat. At minimum infants should be secured in a rear-facing car seat until age 1 and at least 20 lbs.
Forward-Facing Seats: Once a child is at least one year old and weighs 20 lbs or more, they should ride in a forward-facing seat in the back seat at least until they reach the seat’s particular upper weight and height limit, usually age 4 and 40 pounds.
Booster Seats: Once a child no longer fits in a forward-facing car seat, usually around age 4 and 40 pounds, they should ride in booster seat until the seat belt fits properly.
Seat Belts: Once a child outgrows a booster seat, usually at age 8, or when they are 4 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 80 lbs, they can use just the seat belt but, must still sit in the back seat until at least age 12. The belt fits properly when it lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest.
For an inspection of your child car seat, you can visit one of the voluntary child seat checkpoints scheduled by the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety (NJDHTS). Certified child passenger safety technicians will examine the child seat, ensure that it is installed correctly, and explain any problems. There are also child passenger safety coordinators in each county that will arrange a private inspection. For a list go to www.nj.gov/oag/hts/childseats/childtechnicians.html.
American Academy of Pediatrics
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Safe Kids Worldwide
Sources: National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration- http://www.nhtsa.gov
nbsp; New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety – http://www.nj.gov/oag/services_safe.htm