AAA Mid-Atlantic Reminds Parents to Keep Children Correctly Secured in Vehicles during

National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 13-19

Hamilton, NJ, September 11, 2015 – Parents go to great lengths to make sure their children are safe, but when it comes to car seat safety, too frequently minor mistakes can put children at risk without parents realizing it.  During National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 13-19, AAA Mid-Atlantic warns parents of the seven common car seat mistakes. 

  1. Not using a safety seat. Whether an infant, toddler or booster seat-age child, parents should always use the appropriate child restraint system every time their children are in a vehicle. Safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). And, using a booster seat with a seat belt for older children instead of a seat belt alone reduces the risk of injury by 59 percent. 

  2. Not reading safety seat instructions. Three out of four child safety seats are installed incorrectly according to NHTSA. With thousands of combinations of child safety seats and vehicle belt systems, it’s important for parents to read both the vehicle owner’s manual and the child safety seat instructions before installing a seat to ensure it’s done properly.

  3. Using restraints for older children too soon. Whether it’s turning an infant forward-facing or progressing into an adult seat belt, parents frequently advance their children into the stage of safety restraints too soon  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers not be turned to face forward until they are at least age two and the maximum weight for the seat.  Infants should remain rear-facing until they reach the upper weight limit of their rear-facing car seat. All children under age 13 should be placed in the back seat.

  4. Installing safety seats too loosely. When a child safety seat is properly installed, it should not move more than one inch in any direction. Parents should use either the vehicle’s seat belt or LATCH system to secure the safety seat—but not both, unless approved by the vehicle and car seat manufacturers. If using a seat belt, make sure it is locked to hold the seat snugly in place.

  5. Adjusting seat harnesses incorrectly. Safety seat harnesses should always be snug and lie flat without twists. Harnesses should be at or below the child’s shoulders when rear-facing and at or above the shoulders when forward-facing in order to hold the child’s body upright and against the seat. The chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.

  6. Gadgetry: If it didn’t come with the seat (or wasn’t purchased from the manufacturer to use with the seat), it wasn’t crash-tested with the seat. It therefore cannot be guaranteed to be safe and should not be used. This includes strap covers, mirrors and toys.

  7. Not replacing seats after a crash or using one without knowing its history: Check your manual to see if the seat should be replaced even after a minor fender-bender and even if no child was in the seat at the time. Also, never buy a used car seat, and never accept a free used one unless you are sure that it has never been in a crash. Even if it looks OK, it may be damaged in ways that aren’t visible. It is safer to buy a cheap, new seat than a name-brand, high-end used seat. All seats pass the same pass/fail crash tests.

According to the NHTSA motor vehicle crashes killed 3,335 children under the age of 13 in a five year period from 2009-2013.  Additionally, 611,000 children were injured during the same time period.   Every 34 seconds one child under 13 is involved in a crash— enough to rank motor vehicle crashes as the top killer of children between ages 1 and 13 in the United States.

New Jersey is the first state in the country to adopt the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations to keep children rear facing until the age of 2.  The new child safety seat law took effect September 1.

“Requiring children to stay rear facing until the age of 2 is the easiest way to keep children safe while on the road”, said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Rear-facing car seats are constructed to allow children to “ride down” the crash, whereas forward facing seats, much like seat belts, hold occupants in their seats.”

For babies this is a critical difference, their heads are often larger and heavier in proportion to their bodies, which can cause significant trauma to the neck and spine in a crash if they are forward facing.  Rear-facing car seats spread frontal crash forces over the whole area of a child's back, head and neck; they also prevent the head from snapping relative to the body in a frontal crash.

The American Academy of Pediatricians also recommends that children use a forward facing seat with a five point harness until they reach the height and weight limits for that seat. A five point harness spreads the crash forces over the whole body, reducing significant injuries.

Under the new law:

  • Children under age 2 AND weighing less than 30 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat that is equipped with a five-point harness.

  • Children ages 2 – 4 and weighing up to 40 pounds must be secured in a child-safety seat equipped with a five-point harness, either rear-facing (up to the height and weight limits of the seat) or forward-facing.

  • Children ages 4 – 8 and less than 57” tall (4’9”) must be secured in a forward-facing seat equipped with a five-point harness (up to the height and weight limits of the seat) or in a booster seat.

  • Children ages 8 – 17 must use the vehicles seat belt. The safest place for children under 13 is the back seat.

Consulting an expert can be critical to ensure that children are secured in the safest manner possible.  Parents and caregivers can visit http://www.nj.gov/oag/hts/childseats/childseatchecks.html or http://www.safekids.org/events/field_coalition/safe-kids-new-jersey to find a local Child Seat Check Station or event to have their seat inspected by a certified technician.

For more information on finding the best seat for you your child visit http://www.safercar.gov/parents/CarSeats/Car-Seat-Safety.htm.