A child is involved in a crash while riding in a passenger vehicle, on average, every 25 seconds. In 2021, 710 children under the age of 13 were killed in traffic crashes while riding in passenger vehicles, more than 100,000 were injured, and more than a third (36%) who died while riding in passenger vehicles were unrestrained.
Those sober statistics were released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in conjunction with its announcement of Child Passenger Safety Week, which runs this year from September 17-23.
The annual initiative reinforces the fact that car crashes are a leading cause of death for children, but when installed correctly, car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers.
“Most caregivers think they’re using their car seats correctly, but the reality is about half of them aren’t,” according to the federal agency.
Research has shown that the best way to keep children safe in vehicles is to correctly use the proper car seats (rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, or booster seats) or seat belts based on a child’s age and size. “We routinely check things like our tire pressure, our engine oil, and our brake lights; why not check the equipment that keeps your most vulnerable passengers safe? ” the federal agency said, stressing that it is important to not wait for a crash to happen to find out if your child’s seat is installed correctly.
The annual safety week will end with National Seat Check Saturday, a day for parents and caregivers to receive free instruction on how to correctly install and use the right car seats and booster seats for their kids. This year certified child passenger safety technicians will be offering free car seat safety checks and education nationwide on Saturday, September 23. In addition to making sure car seats are installed correctly, they will explain the importance of registering car seats with the manufacturer in order to be notified if there is a recall.
There are some common “deadly mistakes” that parents and caregivers make, according to NHTSA:
Ignoring instructions: Before installing a car seat, it’s important to read both the car seat instruction manual and the vehicle owner’s manual. Skipping steps or misusing equipment can have disastrous consequences.
Skipping the top tether: Securing the top tether is an essential step when installing a forward-facing car seat to prevent the car seat from moving forward in a crash.
Rushing ahead: Moving children to the next type of car seat before they’re old enough and big enough leaves them vulnerable in a crash, so keep your kids in the right seat for their age and size as long as possible.
Giving in: Riding up front makes kids feel older, but it’s not safe for kids under 13 and letting young children ride in the front seat is dangerous. The airbags in the front are designed with an adult passenger in mind. All children from birth through 12 years old should be buckled in the correct seat, and always in the back seat.
For more information on child car seat safety, click here. To get help installing, using and inspecting car seats, find out if a certified technician is available in your community by clicking the Car Seat Inspection Finder.