Correctly installed car seats and proper use are key to arriving safely
The holidays are a time to travel and see friends and family. In addition to the special consideration we all must give to preventing the spread of Covid-19, Vermonters are reminded that this time of year also brings with it unpredictable winter weather and icy roads. Most car crashes in Vermont occur between November and January, which means it is important to make sure your children are safely buckled up, and car or booster seats are properly installed and secured, the Vermont Dept. of Health said in a press release Dec. 16.
Vermont data show that nearly half (47%) of child car and booster seats are not installed correctly, creating a risk of serious or fatal injury to children in the event of an accident. During this busy holiday season, health officials want parents and caregivers to be sure the car and booster seats are properly installed, and that children only transition to a seatbelt when they are big enough.
“Safety is the number one priority for our children,” said Stephanie Busch, injury prevention program manager with the Vermont Dept. of Health. “Whether your holiday travel plans involve driving to another state or just over the river and through the woods, we urge all drivers to make sure their kids are safe and secure in correctly installed car or booster seats.”
Busch noted a recent auto accident in the North Country that resulted in the death of a child who was in an adult seatbelt instead of the appropriate car seat.
“These incredibly tragic incidents highlight the real importance of fastening children appropriately,” said Busch. “Parents and caregivers can go online to beseatsmart.org for a 5-step test that will help them to know if their child is ready for an adult seatbelt.”
Best practices for keeping children safe while riding in vehicles:
- Children under age 13 should always ride in the back seat.
- Use the “5 step test” to determine when children are ready to use an adult seatbelt. (Visit beseatsmart.org/stage4/seat-belts.php)
- Vermont law requires children to be in a child safety seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old, but older children may need to use these until they are bigger.
- Keep children in a forward-facing harnessed seat until they exceed the manufacturer’s height or weight limit.
- Once children outgrow their harnessed car seat it is time to use a booster seat. At a minimum your child should be at least 5 or 6 years old to transition to a booster seat but waiting until they exceed the height or weight limit of their forward-facing car seat is safer!
- Keep children in their rear-facing convertible car seat until they exceed the manufacturer’s height or weight limit. You may need to transition your child from a rear-facing only seat (the ones with the carrying handles) to a rear-facing convertible seat to maximize the protection your child can have by riding rear-facing.
- Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, should not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat. Learn more about how to keep our child warm and safe in their car seat: healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Winter-Car-Seat-Safety-Tips.aspx
You can also have a nationally certified child passenger safety technician perform a free check to see if your child is riding safely: visit beseatsmart.org and click on “Car Seat Inspection Stations in Vermont.”
For more tips to keep kids safe in cars, visit healthvermont.gov/emergency-preparedness-ems/injury-prevention/child-passenger-safety.