(Chester County Moms)

Child Passenger Safety Week takes place September 16-22, and to celebrate, we're investigating the real - and often changing - rules behind safe buckling. Check to be sure that your car seats and booster seats are correctly installed and that your child is secured in the appropriate seat for his or her age and size. Don't forget to have your child's caregiver check seats, too.

It's hard to keep the ever-changing guidelines straight for where your child is safest in the car. Check out the four seats your child will go through, and remember these things when searching for a new car seat:

  • Always check the manufacturer's height and weight guidelines; age is not always the best way to decide on a car seat
  • Choose a seat that fits well in your vehicle and use it every time
  • Read the manual to insure proper installation
  • Children under 13 should never ride in the front seat

1) Rear-Facing
Children younger than 1 should always ride in a rear-facing seat. Children under age 2 should be in this seat, as well, unless they reach the maximum height or weight allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat with an active passenger side air bag.

2) Forward-Facing
Once children over age 2 outgrow their rear-facing seat, they should ride in a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness until they reach the maximum height or weight allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat.

3) Belt-Positioning Booster Seat
After a forward-facing seat, children should be secured in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap and shoulder belt fits properly. This is usually when the child is about 4'9" and 8-12 years old.

4) Seat Belt
When the booster seat is outgrown, they are ready for regular seat belts. Be sure that the lap and shoulder belts fit properly - the lap belt lays low and snug across the hips/upper thighs, and the shoulder belt fits across the center of the chest and shoulder. Children under age 13 should never sit in the front seat.

Effectiveness of Child Safety Seats
Crashes are the leading cause of death for children 1-12 years old, so it is imperative that your child is buckled in the right safety seat. From 1975-2010, child restraints in vehicles saved an estimated 303 lives of children age 4 and younger.

"Remember that you need to buckle up, too" explains Susan Pizzi, Coordinator of Community Health Education at The Chester County Hospital. "Children are twice as likely to wear their seat belts if you are belted." Only half of all children wear their seat belts if the driver is not buckled.

Resources on Child Passenger Safety
To be sure that your seat is right for your child, check out these local places that will inspect it - for free! Remember that these places are not allowed to install your seat for you. All resources below require appointments - spots fill up quickly!

Chester County Sheriff
201 West Market Street, Suite 120
West Chester, PA 19380
Contact: Sergeant Matthew Tocydlowski

Francis Automotive Services
1317 West Chester Pike
West Chester, PA 19382
Contact: John L. Francis

Goshen Fire Company
1320 Park Avenue
West Chester, PA 19380
Contact: A.J. Pizzi

Need a different location? Check out National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for inspection stations by ZIP code.

For more information on safety seats or inspection stations, contact Lori Aguilera at the Chester County Safe Kids Coalition by calling 610-344-5557.

Information has been adapted from the Traffic Injury Prevention Project of Pennsylvania.

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