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Ensure your child is always buckled up in the right car seat

The most important task of a parent or caregiver is to keep their child safe. Part of that responsibility is ensuring that children are safely buckled up in the correct, and properly installed, car seats for their ages and sizes. Using the correct car seat could mean the difference between life, serious injury, or death for a child. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every 32 seconds in 2018, a child under 13 years of age was involved in a passenger vehicle crash. Using car seats that are age and size appropriate is the best way to keep children safe.

Motor vehicle crashes continue to be a leading killer of children, and while fatalities declined from 2017 to 2018, there is still work to be done to completely eliminate these preventable tragedies. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference. In 2017, there were 312 children under the age of 5 saved because they were riding in correctly installed car seats. Car seats matter, and having the right car seat installed and used the right way is critical.

It is unfortunately common for parents to move their children to the front seat before they should, which increases the risk of injury and death, even if that child is buckled up. The safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat. NHTSA reported that, in 2015, about 25.8 percent of children 4 to 7 who should have been riding in booster seats were prematurely moved to seat belts, and 11.6 percent were unbuckled altogether.

Research shows that when used correctly, car seats decrease the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in cars, and by 58 percent and 59 percent respectively, for infants and toddlers in light trucks. Additionally, using the tether on a forward-facing car seat reduces the chances of injury in a crash.

As children grow and transition from one type of car seat to another, parents sometimes become less vigilant about ensuring their children are properly buckled in the right seats for their ages and sizes. The latest data from NHTSA shows that when it comes to restraint use, approximately one-third (33%) of the children who died in passenger vehicles in 2018 were not buckled at all, with the majority of them being children between 8 and 12. In 2017, among children under 5, car seats saved an estimated 312 lives. A total of 371 children could have survived if they had been buckled up 100 percent of the time.

Get your car seats checked. Make sure they’re installed correctly, and that your kids are in the right seats and are buckled in correctly. Even if you think your child’s car seat is installed correctly, get it checked so you can be sure that your child is the safest he or she can be while traveling.

Webster County Public Health, in conjunction with the Fort Dodge Fire Department and UnityPoint Health host car seat checks the last Tuesday of every month. However, car seat checks can also be done at any time by calling Webster County Public Health and scheduling an appointment with one of our trained staff members. Appointments can be made by calling 515-573-4107.

Children need to be buckled in, and in the right kind of seat, whether it’s a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat with a tether, a booster seat, or a seat belt in the back seat – every trip, every time.

This column was provided by Webster County Public Health.

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