It's National Child Passenger Safety Week — know the rules

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:22

    Thousands of children die or are seriously injured in car accidents each year because they aren’t buckled up in appropriate child safety seats, according to national child safety experts. This week — Sept. 18 through 24 — is National Child Passenger Safety Week. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children from 3 to 14 years old, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But child safety seats — when used properly — can reduce the risk of death in car crashes by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s extremely important that parents and caregivers keep their young passengers in child safety seats, booster seats and seat belts that are appropriate for their child’s age and weight,” said Lisa Melton, an assistant vice president with Amica Insurance. National safety authorities say that all children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat, Melton said, especially since the front seat usually has air bags that can cause significant injury to or death of a young child. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers these guidelines: Birth to 12 months: Children under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. Ages 1 to 3: Keep children in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, until they reach the top height or weight allowed by an individual car seat manufacturer. Once a child outgrows a rear-facing car seat, he or she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with harnesses. Ages 4 to 7: Keep children in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Once the child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, use a booster seat. Ages 8 to 12: Keep children in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to wear a seat belt properly — typically when the child is 4 feet 9 inches tall. For the seatbelt to fit properly, the lap belt should fit firmly across the upper thighs and not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not across the neck or face. It’s also important to make sure the child safety seat is properly installed in order to keep your child safe, Melton noted. National Seat Check Saturday is on Sept. 24. Check with your local police or fire departments to see if there’s a local child safety checkpoint that day. “Cars can be a dangerous place for young children,” Melton said. “So before you drive, make sure all your passengers are safe.”