Keeping Your Child Safe in the Car: Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week

By Carolina Boyd, Communications Associate

One of the most important responsibilities parents have is to keep their children safe. Part of that duty involves child passenger safety. According to the United States Department of Transportation, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children in this country. That fact makes Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week all the more important.  The week of September 19-25, 2021 has been set aside to highlight the need for all children to be properly secured, while traveling in a motor vehicle.

In 2019, an average of two children (under the age of 12) died every day while riding in cars, SUVs, pickups and vans. During this same time, another 374 were injured. Many of these deaths were preventable. Using a car seat that is appropriate for the age and size of your child is the best way to keep your child safe.

“Child safety seats have been found to help reduce the risk of injury in the case of a car crash,” said Mollie Gaitz, Patient Health Educator at Legacy Community Health. “The car seat takes part of the force of the impact off the child. This is especially true if the child and seat are installed and restrained correctly.”

Here is some basic car seat safety information every parent needs to know.

Stage 1: Rear-facing Seat

  • All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until the age of 2-years-old, or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

Stage 2:  Convertible or Forward-facing Seat

  • Children ages two-and-older who have outgrown rear-facing seats should use a forward facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer.
  • This also applies to any child younger than 2 years who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit of their seat.

Stage 3: Forward-facing or Booster Seat

  • Children whose weight or height exceeds the limit for a forward-facing car seat should switch to a belt-positioning booster seat.
  • These children should remain in a booster seat until the car’s seat belt fits properly. Typically, when children reach 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

Stage 4: Seat belts

  • When children are old enough as well as large enough to use the car’s seat belt, they should always use both the lap and shoulder belts for optimal protection.
  • Lap portion should be low over the hips and the shoulder belt should cross the center of the shoulder and center of the chest (not the neck).

“Parents and care givers should reach out to the state of Texas’ Safe Riders Child Passenger Safety program to locate car seat classes or check-up events within their area,” said Rob Alvarado, Patient Health Educator at Legacy. “Your local fire department also provides referrals for car seat inspections, which is a great way to make sure it is installed correctly.”

Also, never leave a child alone in a car, no matter the circumstances. The likelihood for heatstroke and death increase as the thermostat rises. That is because a child’s body temperature rises much faster than that of an adult. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there are some things parents and caregivers can do to prevent vehicular heat stroke:

  • Always check the back seat or cargo areas before locking the car.
  • Create ways to remind yourself that there is a child in the back seat. This could be leaving your bag, lunch or cell phone in that area.
  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Here at Legacy we have Child Passenger Safety Technicians who are certified and trained to teach parents and caregivers to install a car seat, as well as car safety. We also offer car seat safety classes, both via Zoom on in person, at several of our clinics. Car seats are provided for families in need.  For more information about these programs and classes, call our Legacy Public Health team at (281) 628-2011.