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Protecting your children: car passenger safety tips

Posted at 4:11 AM, Sep 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-19 07:47:07-04

According to the New York State traffic safety committee, car crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for kids under the age of 13.

It's important to pick the right car seat for your child. Did you know car seats have an expiration date? While it could be cost effective, it's not the safest idea to re-use a car seat from child to child or pick one up at a garage sale.

Once you have a car seat, follow these tips for the safest installation. You can use this online calculator that factors your child's height, weight and age to find the best car seat

  • Read the car seat’s instruction manual and the portion of your vehicle’s owner manual on car seat installation. Every car seat needs to be installed using either the lower anchors or the seat belt to secure it in place. If you choose to use a seat belt to install your car seat, pay close attention to how to lock your seat belt in the vehicle owner’s manual. Because every car seat and vehicle is different, it’s important to follow all instructions carefully.
  • Place the car seat in the back seat of your vehicle and follow the manufacturer’s installation directions. The car seat must be secured tightly in the vehicle. It should not move side-to-side or front-to-back more than 1 inch when pulled at the belt path.
  • If it is a forward-facing seat and has a tether strap, connect it to the tether anchor and tighten. This step is very important as it limits forward head movement in a crash.
  • If it is a rear-facing seat, make sure the car seat is installed at the correct recline angle. Most car seats have built-in angle indicators or adjustors that help with this step. If you have questions, trained Child Passenger Safety Technicians can help you. Many local fire and police stations offer free car seat inspections.
  • Properly position the harness on your child. Rear-facing: Harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be placed through the slot that is at or below your child’s shoulders. Forward-facing: Harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be placed through the slot that is at or above your child’s shoulders.
  • Buckle the harness and the chest clip and tighten.
  • The harness is snug enough when extra material cannot be pinched at the shoulder. Make sure the chest clip is at armpit level.

Don't forget about your older children too! 

  • Require tweens to ride in the backseat and wear seat belts every time. No exceptions, even when riding in the car with other drivers or when the trip is short. Most crashes happen close to home. Wearing seat belts is not only for their safety – it’s the law.
  • Make sure seat belts fit properly: The lap belt should be snug and low across the upper thighs/hips. The shoulder belt should cross the chest and collarbone. Never let your tween put the shoulder belt behind the back or under the arm. Serious injuries can occur in a crash. Your child should be tall enough to sit up straight against the vehicle seat back and have legs bend over the edge.