National Child Passenger Safety Week means free child seat check-up, installation

This week is National Child Passenger Safety Week and to commemorate, parents can get the expert advice from local groups on child car seat installation. In 2008, the lives of more than 1,400 children age 5 years and older in California were saved by the use of child restraints and seat belts, according to estimates by the National Highway Transportation Safety. However, as many as three out of four child safety seats are improperly installed in vehicles, and proper restraint tends to decline as children age, the agency said. Locally, a survey conducted last year found that only about half of the 5-9 year olds observed were properly restrained. “It’s the responsibility of every parent and caregiver to make sure their children are safely restrained in a car seat, booster seat or seat belt every time they ride,” said Carol Wallace, Deputy Fire Marshal for the Aptos/La Selva Fire Protection District. “We find that virtually everyone who attends this kind of event learns something that can help them keep kids safer in and around cars.” The first child safety seat event is being held by the California Highway Patrol Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10395 Soquel Drive, Aptos. To make an appointment, call 662-0511. The second event is hosted by the Safe Kids Chapter of Santa Cruz County and Aptos/La Selva Fire. It happens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday at 6934 Soquel Drive. To schedule an appointment, call 685-6690. Below are the "4 Steps for Kids" guidelines experts recommend to help parents determine the safest way for their children to ride:
  • Babies and young toddlers should ride in rear-facing car seats, in the back seat, until they reach the height or weight limit of the particular seat. So-called “convertible” seats can accommodate children of up to about 35 pounds. At minimum, babies should ride in rear-facing seats until they are at least one year and 20 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their rear-facing convertible seats, they should continue to ride in the back seat, but now they can sit in forward-facing car seats until they reach the upper weight or height limit of that particular seat. Depending on child’s physical and developmental needs, that’s usually up to age four or five.
  • After a child has outgrown his or her forward-facing seat, he or she should ride in a booster seat in the back seat of the family vehicle. The child can ride there until the vehicle’s seat belt fits them properly and they can stay safely in position for the duration of the ride. That usually occurs around age 8 or when they reach four-feet-nine-inches tall.
  • Graduation to adult seat belts occurs when children outgrow their booster seats and are developmentally ready. Seat belts will fit correctly when the child’s knees bend comfortably over the front of the vehicle seat, the lap belt sits low across the hips and touch the upper thigh, and the shoulder belt fits across the chest and shoulder without touching the neck. Children under 13 years of age should continue to ride in the back seat when possible.
For more information on Child Passenger Safety and other local resources for families, call 454-5477.
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