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TOWSON, MD (Thursday, September 17, 2020) –– Every day in America, too many children ride in car seats that have been installed incorrectly or are riding in the wrong car seats for their ages and sizes. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), child restraint systems are often used incorrectly. An estimated 46% of car seats and booster seats (59% of car seats and 20% of booster seats) are misused in a way that could reduce their effectiveness. Even worse, some children ride while completely unbuckled.
During National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 20-26, AAA Mid-Atlantic urges parents to review Maryland’s car seat law, be sure children are in the proper child seat or booster for their age and size, avoid common mistakes and seek expert assistance with car seat installation.
“Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children,” said Ragina C. Ali, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep your children safe. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference.”
Child Passenger Safety Statistics
- Every 32 seconds in 2018, one child under the age of 13 riding in a passenger vehicle was involved in a crash.
- From 2014 to 2018, there were 3,315 children under 13 killed while riding in passenger vehicles.
- On average, nearly two children under 13 were killed every day in 2018 while riding in cars, SUVs, pickups, and vans.
- In 2018, approximately one-third (33%) of children under 13 killed in passenger vehicles were not restrained in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts.
Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA)
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement on “Child Passenger Safety” advises parents to keep their children’s car seats in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. Previously, the AAP recommended rear-facing car seats up until the age of two.
“Parents and caregivers should know the child passenger laws in the state they live in and, if traveling, any states that they may travel through,” said Ali.
Maryland’s Child Passenger Safety Law states, “A person transporting a child under the age of 8 years in a motor vehicle shall secure the child in a child safety seat in accordance with the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions unless the child is 4 feet, 9 inches tall or taller.” In addition, “Every child from 8 to 16 years old who is not secured in a child restraint must be secured in the vehicle’s seat belt, in every seating position in the vehicle.” The fine in Maryland is $50.
Seven Common Car Seat Mistakes
- 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.
- 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.
- Using restraints for older children too soon. Parents frequently advance their children into the stage of safety restraints too soon. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) car seat recommendations advises parents to keep their children’s car seats in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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’re sure that it’s never been in a crash. Even if it looks OK, there may be damages that aren’t visible. It is safer to buy a cheap, new seat than a high-end used seat. All seats pass the same pass/fail crash tests.
Remember to register your car seat or booster seat with the seat manufacturer so you can be notified in the event of a recall. Parents and caregivers can view more information on car seat safety and locate a certified technician at nhtsa.gov/carseat. The Maryland Department of Health’s Kids In Safety Seats (KISS) program is offering Video Car Seat Assistance. Registration is available on the department’s website.