CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) — Every day in America, millions of parents and caregivers travel with children in their vehicles. While some children are buckled in properly in the correct car seats for their ages and sizes, many are not, if they are buckled up at all. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 46% of car seats are misused.
To help combat this issue, the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) announced today its participation in Child Passenger Safety Week, a campaign dedicated to helping parents and caregivers make sure their children ride as safely as possible — every trip, every time.
Governor Jim Justice issued a proclamation making September 20-26, 2020, Child Passenger Safety Week in West Virginia.
The GHSP will be sharing messages to raise awareness about the dangers children face when they are not buckled properly. This year, the major focus is on education for parents and caregivers, with minimal in-person events due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Every 32 seconds in 2018, a child under 13 was involved in a passenger vehicle crash,” said Amy Boggs, GHSP Child Passenger Safety Program Manager. “Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep your children safe.”
According to NHTSA, motor vehicle crashes are a leading killer of children, and while fatalities declined from 2017 to 2018, there is still work to be done to completely eliminate these preventable tragedies. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference.
“In 2017, there were 312 children under the age of 5 saved because they were in a car seat,” Boggs said. “Car seats matter, and having the right car seat installed and used the right way is critical.”
Boggs added that too often, parents move their children to the front seat before they should, which increases the risk of injury and death, even if that child is buckled up. The safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat. NHTSA reported that, in 2015, about 25.8% of children 4 to 7 who should have been riding in booster seats were prematurely moved to seat belts, and 11.6% were unbuckled altogether.
“As parents and caregivers, we have a long list of things we do for our children to show our love. One of the simplest and most important things on the list should be to make sure they are in the right car seat for their age and size,” Boggs said. “Get your car seats checked. Make sure they’re installed correctly, and that your kids are in the right seats and are buckled in correctly. Even if you think your child’s car seat is installed correctly, get it checked with a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, so you can be sure that your child is the safest he or she can be while traveling.”
NHTSA recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible, up to the top height and weight allowed by their particular seats. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing-only “infant” car seat, he/she should travel in a rear-facing “convertible” or all-in-one car seat. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing size limits, the child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. After outgrowing the forward-facing car seat with harness, children should be placed in booster seats until they’re the right size and maturity level to use seat belts safely.
To locate an inspection station in West Virginia, visit http://dmv.wv.gov/cps. The services these stations offer are available year-round, by appointment, and are free of charge.
Always remember to register your car seat and booster seat with the car seat manufacturer so you can be notified in the event of a recall. Parents and caregivers can view more information on car seat safety at www.nhtsa.gov/therightseat.