(Chester County Moms)

The saying, "BACK TO 2!" reinforces to parents and caregivers the need to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until the reach the maximum height and weight for their car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated their recommendations for children in car seats in include this information. Additionally, research has found children are safer in rear-facing car seats. A 2007 study published in the journal Injury Prevention showed that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing.

On an average day in Pennsylvania, there are approximately 350 crashes on state highways. Motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children ages 3 to 21, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Correctly buckling in a child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt is the single most effective way to protect motor vehicle occupants and to reduce fatalities in a crash.

Child passenger safety covers all children - from birth through teenage drivers. The revised AAP policy statement addresses best practice for the use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts for children of all ages. CPS week serves as an opportunity to review the safety of the entire family when in the vehicle.

Following are points to consider in safely securing children in vehicles:

  • Restrain all adults and children on every trip, every time. Parents who buckle up set the example and teach children to buckle up. More than 121,000 crashes occurred in Pennsylvania in 2009. According to PennDOT, 1,256 people were killed and 451 of the victims were not wearing seat belts at the time of their crashes.
  • If you are an expectant mother, it's important to always wear your seat belt to protect you and your unborn child. Wear the lap belt across your hips and below your belly with the shoulder belt across your chest (between the breasts).
  • Keep your child in a back seat. Children are 38 percent less likely to be injured in a crash if they are in a back seat (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia - Partners for Child Passenger Safety).
  • Use child safety seats and seat belts correctly. There is still a high misuse rate of child safety seats and booster seats. Last year at PennDOT-funded car seat inspection stations, more than eight out of every 10 child safety seats checked were being used improperly.
  • Use the best safety restraint for your child's size. Take into account a child's age, weight, height, physical development and behavior needs when selecting a seat. The AAP recommendations for child safety seats listed below are a good way to determine which type of child safety seat is best for your child.
  • NEW! All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their car safety seat.
  • All children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown their rear-facing weight or height limit for the car safety seat, should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their car safety seat.
  • All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car safety seat should use a belt-positioning seat until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.
  • When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt along, they should always use lap-and-shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.

Under Pennsylvania's child passenger safety law, all drivers are responsible for securing children in the appropriate child restraint system.

  • All children from birth up to age 4 must be secured in an approved child safety seat anywhere in the vehicle.
  • All children age 4 up to age 8 must be secured in a seat-belt system and appropriate child booster seat anywhere in the vehicle.
  • All children age 8 up to age 18 must be secured in a seat-belt system anywhere in the vehicle.

The law also states that all drivers are responsible for the front seat occupants to wear a properly adjusted and fastened seat-belt system. All drivers under 18 years of age may not operate a motor vehicle in which the number of passengers exceeds the number of available safety seat belts in the vehicle.

To learn more, call 1.800.CAR.BELT or visit http://www.pakidstravelsafe.org to find the nearest car seat loan program, child safety seat inspection station or car seat check up event.

Source: PA Traffic Injury Prevention Project

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