September 20-26 is National Child Passenger Safety Week.  It’s common practice in our society to use car seats and seat belts, and we tend to think it’s a pretty straightforward practice.  So why do we need to talk about or have an awareness week about child passenger safety?

Unfortunately, many of us do not use our safety restraint systems properly.  There is a correct way to use a seatbelt, a car seat, or a booster seat.  Incorrect usage can be fatal in a car wreck.  The National Safety Council reports that a child under 13 years of age is involved in a crash every 33 seconds. Safe Kids Worldwide says that while road injuries are the leading cause of preventable death and injury to children in the U.S., the risk could be reduced by up to 71% by correctly using car safety seats.  

It really is important for us to use child restraint systems properly so that they can protect our children in the worst situations. Most parents think they are using their car seats properly, but Safe Kids says that over half of car seats are not installed or used correctly.

Begin with the right seat

It’s recommended that children ride in a rear-facing seat until at least the age of two.  When they have outgrown this seat or reached this age, they switch to a forward facing seat, still with a five-point harness. There are several options for forward facing seats. They are all acceptable as long as the height and weight requirements are followed.  Again, when your child outgrows that height and weight requirements, he will move to a booster seat.

Installing a car seat or booster seat

The advice for installing a car safety seat is simple:  follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  However, new parents are often stumped by the instructions, the weaving of seatbelts through multiple slots and hooks, or the right place to find the anchor system hooks deep within the cracks in the seats.

Hang in there!  And get help if you need it!  Did you know that there are car seat installation stations all over the place? Quite often, they are at local fire departments.  Safe Kids has great installation tips and a way to search for a certified child passenger safety technician near you.

Once you have your seat installed, check it with the Inch Test.  When you pull it forward or side to side at the connection straps, it should not move more than one inch. 

Properly using your car seat

Installing a car seat is only the first step in using it properly.  It is equally important that the child is properly secured in the seat.

The child’s body must lie flat against the seat with nothing underneath, so no blankets or pillows. Make sure the straps are at the right level (at or above the child’s shoulders) and that they are not twisted.  Be willing to loosen and tighten the straps each time you use the car seat.  Since the straps must be tight to keep the child secure, it’s necessary to adjust them each time. 

Once your child is clipped in, tighten the straps so that they cannot be pinched between your fingers at the shoulder.  Lastly, adjust the chest clip so that it is level with your child’s armpit.  If the chest clip is too low, it can cause serious injury in the case of an auto accident.

child with proper seat belt positioning

Seatbelt usage

Once your children no longer need a 5-point harness, proper seatbelt usage is important.  Booster seats help to lift a child so that a seatbelt can be placed across the shoulder and do its job. There is not a human being alive who thinks that a seatbelt is wonderfully comfortable. Help your child learn to wear a seatbelt in the proper way, even though it may be uncomfortable at first.

It’s always helpful to find a way to make a requirement fun. Try learning this song to help your kids feel a little more cheerful about safety requirements.

Make it important

Child passenger safety is an important issue for all parents and caregivers, so let’s teach our kids how to be safe in the car.  You can find the sign for car below, and we have more transportation signs here in our dictionary.

You can access fun ways to learn anytime and from any device when you have a MySigningTime subscription. Try it out with our 14-day free trial right here.