Traveling during the holidays? Don’t forget about child passenger safety

Millions of Californians are planning to hit the road for the holidays. If you plan to be among them, and you have children, below is some information on the importance of making sure your youngsters are properly strapped in from California Highway Patrol officer Sarah Jackson: California State Law states that children 6 years and under, and those who weigh less than 60 lbs, must be in booster seats. However, many 6-and 7-year-old children are still too small to properly fit in a regular seat belt without the help of a booster seat. The recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is 8 years and a height of 4 feet 9 inches. The next time you buckle your child up for a ride in the family car, examine how the seat belt fits. Does it rest snugly and squarely on his or her shoulder, is there a gap between your child and the belt? Where and how the shoulder and lap belt fits is crucial in a collision. If the shoulder belt is nearer to their neck or face, it does not fit properly and is not safe. The same can be said for the lap portion of the belt. If it is up around their abdomen rather than on their lap, the chance for significant abdominal injuries is increased. Picture a collision in your mind – in slow motion. Would you rather have your child's delicate face, neck, and abdomen coming into contact with the belt at a high speed or the sturdier structures of their chest, shoulder, and hips? According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, booster seats reduced injury risk for children aged 4-7 years by 59 percent compared to seat belts alone. The New York State Department of Health also found that children of the same age range who were seated in booster seats had significantly shorter hospital stays and less serious injuries than their counterparts who were restrained by a seat belt alone. In addition to the risk of injury, you may also be issued a citation for not having your child properly belted if the seat belt does not fit properly. Both the CHP and the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency have programs to help families ensure their child seat is properly installed. They also have a wealth of information about child passenger and booster seats. To learn more, visit www.chp.ca.gov/community/safeseat.html or call 662-0511. You also can check out www.santacruzhealth.org/phealth/family/3seatsforkids.htm or call 454-5477.
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