Child passenger safety
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, the leading cause of injury and death for children ages 3-14 years is from trauma in automobile accidents. We can and do protect our children by placing them correctly in a car and booster seats and obeying child passenger laws when we travel. Using a properly installed car or booster seat or buckling your child in properly can reduce the risk of serious injury or death by as much as 75%. Use the utmost care when driving with children to protect them in case of an accident.
Tips for buckling them up
Always use a car seat. Massachusetts state law requires that all children who weigh less than 40 pounds and who are under the age of five must be properly secured in a federally approved car or safety seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It is further recommended that:
- Children under one year and under 20 pounds use an infant seat or rear-facing convertible seat
- Children 1-4 years old and 20-40 pounds use a forward-facing or convertible seat
- Children 4-8 years old and 40-80 pounds use a booster seat
Do your research. When looking for a car or booster seat, there is no ‘best’ choice. When choosing a seat, try it out and make sure it fits securely in your car. Put your child in it and adjust the straps. Also, make sure it meets the federal government’s strict safety standards. For tips on choosing an appropriate car seat, whether it is an infant, rear facing, forward facing, convertible, or booster, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Car Seat Guide. Also, do not base your choice on price – high prices may not necessarily make the seat safer or easier to use. Never continue to use a car seat once it’s been in an accident, and avoid purchasing a used car seat because you do not know its history. If you need assistance, see the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s list of Child Safety Seat Loan, Rental and Distribution Programs.
Know how it works. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing a car seat. Ask a professional. Your local fire department or police station may do car installations. To find a location near you that will check your car seat, go to http://www.seatcheck.org/. You can also ask the salesperson when you purchase the seat to show you how to use it, or visit the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s instruction site.
Keep them in the back. Children under the age of 12 should ride in the back seat, and infants should face the back of the vehicle until they are one-year-old.
Be aware of airbags. Know where your car’s airbags are. Do not put a car seat too close to a rear passenger side airbag.
Stick with seatbelts. Your child is ready to use a seat belt when the shoulder strap fits properly across the chest and shoulder, not the neck, and the lap belt is low and across the thighs, not the stomach. Your child should be tall enough to sit in the curve of her seat with her legs bent (approximately 4 feet 10 inches). This will probably be somewhere between 8-12 years of age. Children younger than age 12 should not sit in the front seat.
Spread the word. Be sure to convey this important information to anyone who transports your children – your spouse or partner, babysitter, daycare provider, and other friends and family members.
Not even for a minute. Never leave an infant or child unattended in the car, not even for a minute. When left alone in a car, children may suffer from abduction, dehydration, injury, and other risks. For more information, see both of OneToughJob’s fact sheets ‘Never Leave a Child Alone in a Car’ In Cold Weather and In Warm Weather.