Riding Safe Starts With The Right Seat

Did you know that road injuries are the leading cause of unintentional deaths to children in the United States? Car seats can significantly reduce the risk of injury and death due to car accidents, but only when installed and used properly.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for children over one year of age. When properly installed, child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers. Seat belt usage increases the chances for surviving a crash by nearly 45 percent.

It might surprise you to know that approximately three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly or being used incorrectly.

Car Seat Tips

  1. Choose the right seat for the right age.
  • For the best protection, children should remain rear-facing for as long as possible—until about 2 years old. Kids who ride in rear-facing seats have the best protection for the head, neck and spine. It is especially important for rear-facing children to ride in a back seat away from the airbag.
  • When your children outgrow a rear-facing seat around age 2, move them to a forward-facing car seat. Keep the seat in the back and make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower attachments (latch). Many car seat labels will tell you exactly how much your child can weigh and still use the lower attachments) and top tether. Unhook the lower attachments and use the seat belt once your child reaches the lower attachment weight limit.
  • Children should remain in a car seat with a harness until reaching the max height or weight recommended for that car seat. After a harnessed car seat, children should remain in a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits them properly (Approximately 4′ 9” tall and 80-100 pounds).IMG_0943.jpg
  1. Check the labels & know your car seat’s history!
  • Look at the labels on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height and development.
  • Your car seat has an expiration date – usually around six years. Find the label and double check to make sure it’s still safe. Discard a seat that is expired in a dark trash bag so that it cannot be pulled from the trash and reused.
  • Buy a used car seat only if you know its full crash history. That means you must buy it from someone you know, not from a thrift store or over the internet. Once a car seat has been in a crash or is expired or broken, it needs to be replaced.
  1. Install car seat correctly.
  • Inch test. Once your car seat is installed, give it a good tug at the base where the seat belt goes through it. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
  • Pinch test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check your car seat manual). With the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.
  • For both rear- and forward-facing child safety seats, use either the car’s seat belt or the lower attachments and for forward-facing seats, use the top tether to lock the car seat in place. Don’t use both the lower attachments and seat belt at the same time. They are equally safe- so pick the one that gives you the best fit.
  1. Make sure your car seat is installed correctly.
  • Learn how to install your car seat correctly for free. Find a certified technician or car seat check up event near you by going to nhtsa.gov or www.safekids.org.


Additional Tips for Safe Travels

Be wary of toys and other objects.  Toys can injure your child in a crash, so be extra careful to choose ones that are soft and will not hurt your child. A small, loose toy can be dangerous and injure your baby in a crash. Secure loose objects and toys to protect everyone in the car.

Buckle up.  We know that when adults wear seat belts, kids wear seat belts. So set a good example and buckle up for every ride. Be sure everyone in the vehicle buckles up, too.

Prevent Heatstroke. Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. While it may be tempting to dash out for a quick errand while your babies are sleeping peacefully in their car seats, the temperature inside your car can rise quickly and cause heatstroke in the time it takes for you to run in and out of the store.  

DHEC Child Passenger Safety Program

The Child Passenger Safety Program is funded by a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) grant administered by the S.C. Department of Public Safety (DPS). The goal of the program is to prevent and reduce injuries, disabilities and death to children due to motor vehicle crashes by:

  • Counseling parents and community groups on child passenger safety.
  • Demonstrating and instructing the proper installation of the various child safety seats (infant, convertible, and booster seats).
  • Explaining the dynamics of a motor vehicle crash and potential dangers for children not properly restrained.
  • Providing technical assistance as needed.
  • Providing training to DHEC’s public health offices, partner organizations, community groups, etc., to ensure knowledge and skills to properly restrain children in motor vehicles.
  • Serving as a resource for addressing child passenger safety issues in the community.
  • Raising awareness on the importance of safe transportation for children riding in motor vehicles.

For more information on DHEC’s Child Passenger Safety Program click here. 

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