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July 29, 2009 > Child Passenger Safety Seats Can Save Lives

Child Passenger Safety Seats Can Save Lives

Washington Hospital Offers Free Child Car Seat Inspections

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children in the U.S., but many of those deaths could be prevented with car seats. Unfortunately, too many parents don't use age-appropriate seats or strap their children in properly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that as many as three out of four safety seats are not installed correctly.

With so many different styles available and a number of key variables to consider, including age, size and weight of the child, it's no wonder parents get confused. That's why Washington Hospital is now offering free child car seat inspections to ensure your child's car seat is properly installed.

"If the car seat is not properly installed, it could lead to serious injuries and even death if there is an accident," said Ruth Traylor, director of Community Outreach at Washington Hospital who is certified in child passenger safety seat installation.

Every newborn released from Washington Hospital is required to leave in a car seat and parents are educated about the critical role child safety seats play in protecting their children. According to the NHTSA, placing a child in the appropriate car seat reduces serious and fatal injuries by more than half.

For infants under 1 year old, child safety seats were found to reduce fatal injuries by 71 percent. For toddlers ages 1 to 4, car seats reduced fatal injuries by 54 percent.

According to California law, children must be in a car seat or booster seat until they are at least 6 years old or weigh at least 60 pounds. Never let children sit in the front seat, even if they no longer need a car seat, especially if the front passenger seat has an air bag. General car seat guidelines include:
* Keep infants in rear-facing child seats as long as possible up to the height and weight limit of the seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until they are at least 1 year old and weight at least 20 pounds.
* When children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should ride in forward-facing car seats until they reach the upper weight and height limit of that seat, usually age 4 and 40 pounds.
* Once they have outgrown their forward-facing seats, children should be put in a booster seat until the vehicle's seatbelt fits properly without it. Seatbelts fit when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt is snug across the chest, usually by age 8 or when the child is four feet, nine inches tall.

There are two types of rear-facing seats: infant-only seats and convertible seats, which can be "converted" to a forward-facing seat when children are older. If you are using a convertible seat in the rear-facing position, make sure the seatbelt is routed through the correct slot. After the seat is installed, if you can move it more than one inch from side to side or front to back, it's not tight enough.

There are five types of car safety seats that are forward-facing. If you are converting your rear-facing seat to a forward-facing one, move the shoulder straps to the slots that are at or above your child's shoulders. Make sure the seatbelts run through the forward-facing belt path.

A tether is a strap that attaches to the top of the car safety seat and to an anchor point in your vehicle. All newer forward-facing car seats come with a tether. It provides extra protection by keeping the seat and child's head from moving too far forward in a crash or sudden stop. Vehicles have been required to have a tether since 2000. If your car seat or vehicle does not have a tether, after-market tether kits are available.

Booster seats are designed to raise the child up so the vehicle's lap and shoulder belts work properly. They don't come with their own harness straps and instead provide a plastic clip or guide to ensure the lap and shoulder belts are aligned correctly.

"Keeping children safe is the number one concern for most parents," Traylor said. "Putting children in car seats and making sure they are strapped in correctly is a big part of that."

Make an Car Seat Appointment Today!

If you would like to receive a free child car seat inspection, call Washington Hospital's Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070. Before you come to your appointment, make sure to read the car seat manual and attempt to install the car seat. Bring the car seat installation instructions and your automobile's owner's manual. For more information on car seat safety, tune in to InHealth, a Washington Hospital Channel. InHealth is now airing a short segment demonstrating how to properly install a variety of child passenger safety seats. For more information about Washington Hospital and its programs and services, including the InHealth Channel schedule, visit

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