In 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 675 children under 12 were killed in automobile collisions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the previous year, the number was 723. Tragically, 35% of those killed in these car crashed were not properly restrained. The CDC said more than 100,000 kids each year are injured in collisions. A failure of more parents to use car seats, boosters and seat belts properly would doubtless have resulted in even more deaths. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers.

Given that National Child Passenger Safety Week began Sunday, Sept. 15 and runs through Saturday, it seems an apt time to remind parents and caregivers of the importance of keeping children of all ages properly restrained in a car seat that meets both their weight and height requirements. Safe Kids Carroll County penned a warning column with guidelines in the Times on Sept. 1 and the Maryland State Police issued a reminder on Monday, both in recognition of Child Passenger Safety Week.

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First, a motorist’s legal responsibility. According to an MSP news release, Maryland law requires that children under 8 must ride in an appropriate child restraint, unless that child is 4-foot-9 or taller. Also, every child from 8 to 16 who is not secured in a child restraint must be secured by the vehicle’s seat belt. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure all children are correctly buckled. Violators of this law are subject to an $83 fine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping children in rear-facing seats as long as possible, at least until age 2, because it is the safest way for little ones to travel. Safe Kids Carroll County noted that if an infant car seat is used, the infant should be switched to a rear-facing convertible car seat once the maximum height (when the infant’s head is within 1 inch of the top of the seat) and weight (usually 25-35 pounds) have been reached for that infant seat as suggested by the car seat manufacturer.

Then, children can remain in some forward-facing car seats until they’re 65 pounds or more depending on the car seat limits, at which time it is suggested that use of the lower attachment be discontinued, though continuing to use the top tether. Once the child meets the lower anchor weight limits, switch to seat belts, which work just fine for adults as well as children in car seats and booster seats.

Safe Kids recommends booster seat use when the answer to any of the following questions is “yes.” Does your child exceed the car seat’s height or weight limits? Are your child’s shoulders above the car seat’s top harness slots? Are the tops of your child’s ears above the top of the car seat?

Parents and caregivers also need to remember to set a good example — not to mention staying alive for their kids — by wearing seat belts. According to the NHTSA, 47% of those killed in car accidents were not wearing seat belts and seat belts saved nearly 15,000 lives in 2017 alone.

Call the Carroll County Health Department with any questions about car seats or to make an appointment at 410-876-4448 or visit www.safekids.org or www.aap.org. For even more information and resources on child safety seats, contact Kids in Safety Seats (KISS) at 800-370-SEAT. For more KISS resources, including free safety inspections, visit their website.

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