Child Passenger Safety Week: Seatbelts are key

Car crashes are leading cause of childhood death, make sure you have the right car seat, and it’s installed correctly

Child Passenger Safety Week: Seatbelts are key

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Car accidents are the biggest killer of our kids.

The latest statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration shows that Alabama ranks in the top 10 for the number of children killed in automobile crashes.

“We know that young children and our teens have more likelihood of dying or being injured severely in a crash. That’s how most of our kids are dying, is in automobile crashes during those ages,” says Leslie Brown. She’s the Safe Kids Coordinator for Children’s of Alabama.

In many of the deadly crashes, the children were either not buckled up or properly restrained in a child safety seat.

Children are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a crash because their bodies are more fragile than adults, with softer bones, weaker neck muscles, and children have larger heads in proportion to their bodies.

That’s why children under 13 should always ride in the backseat. It’s also why most children should ride using a booster seat until age 10 or 11.

Determining which kind of child safety seat is best for your family can be complicated, however. Parameters for each style of car seat often overlap in weight and height requirements. Brown offers some advice.

“With height it’s more difficult because some children are longer in the torso or some are longer in the legs so you really want to go with that one inch at the top on height so you know they are approaching the limits by height,” she explains.

Children's Hospital Car Seat Technician explains how to choose the right type of seat for your child

To find the right seat, check out the Ultimate Car Seat Guide.

All car seats are crash tested to the same standards, so it doesn’t matter how much it costs. Brown says most of the more expensive seats are offering parent preference conveniences like cupholders or other accessories.

“As long as you are in the parameters of that seat, and installing it correctly and harnessing them correctly it’s totally ok,” says Brown.

Brown also recommends watching manufacturers installation videos to make sure your car seat installed correctly. If you need help, Children’s of Alabama has a dedicated team of technicians who can check and install your seat. They also offer free car seats for families in need.

Children's Hospital Car Seat technician shows the correct way to install a convertible car seat

Another tip – car seats *do* have expiration dates. Brown says most seats expire six years after their manufacture date. Some last for ten. The manufacture date is printed on the back of the seat.

If your car seat has been involved in a crash, it likely needs to be replaced.

“Call that manufacturer, sometimes it depends on the severity of the crash, some will say throw it out no matter what. What I tell parents is if your seat has been involved in a crash, call the manufacturer and they will tell you what to do, because they are all different,” says Brown.

She also wants to remind everyone of Alabama’s new seat belt law, which requires everyone in the car to be buckled up.

“The state law is changing now that every passenger is buckled in the car. If you look at the literature and the research you see that over half the kids, if they had been restrained, they would have survived a crash,” says Brown.

She also says getting children to use seat belts, starts with the parents.

“We want to make sure that parents are role modeling this. So if the parents are not wearing their seatbelts, the kids aren’t going to do it. We have a lot of teenagers drivers that drive their younger siblings around. If the teenagers are getting in the car and not buckling up their siblings are watching what they are doing,” explains Brown.

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