AAA advises importance of booster seats

AAA advises importance of booster seats Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of children ages 2-14.

"The use of belt-positioning booster seats lowers the risk of injury to children in crashes by 59 percent compared to the use of vehicle seat belts." The finding comes from a study of children ages 4 through 7 by Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS), a State Farm-funded research project at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

That's why AAA South Dakota is taking this opportunity of Child Passenger Safety Week (Feb. 13-19) to remind parents and caregivers of the importance of properly restraining children in motor vehicles. AAA also reminds parents and caregivers that all kids under age seven, and many over age seven depending on their size, need a booster seat.

AAA's Seated, Safe & Secure campaign, launched in 2002, aims to reduce the number of children killed or injured in motor vehicle crashes. Through this nationally recognized effort, AAA is working to raise public awareness of child passenger safety issues and close loopholes in state child passenger safety laws.

Child restraint laws have been improved in almost every state since the launch of the Seated, Safe & Secure campaign, including 28 states and the District of Columbia that have enacted laws requiring the use of booster seats for children. Unfortunately, the South Dakota House of Representatives recently tabled a law that would have protected children ages 5-7 while riding in a motor vehicle by requiring them to be properly restrained in a booster seat.

"While 94 percent of America's toddlers are now regularly restrained, not enough kids ages 4-8 are properly and safely restrained. Only 10-20 percent of kids ages 4-8 who should be using booster seats to protect them are actually in them," said Cheri Cihak, AAA South Dakota's Director of Public Affairs. "This puts children at an unnecessary risk of being injured or killed in crashes because they are simply in the wrong restraint for their size."

Children need to be in the right restraint for their size and age. One study showed that children ages 2-5 who are moved to safety belts too early are four times more likely to sustain a serious head injury than those restrained in car seats. In a traffic crash, the shoulder strap of a safety belt will hit a child shorter than 4' 9" across the neck or face rather than the chest, and there is also a greater risk of internal injury because an adult belt hits across the child's stomach rather than his/her lap.

These children need a booster seat � which raises them up so that adult safety belts fit over their chests and hips properly � and protects them in the event of a crash.

Cihak said as children grow, how they sit in your car, truck, van or SUV should also change. For maximum child passenger safety, parents and caregivers simply need to remember and follow the 4 Steps for Kids:

1. Use rear-facing infant seats in the back seat from birth until both age one AND at least 20 pounds;

2. Use forward-facing toddler seats in the back seat from age one AND 20 pounds to about age four and 40 pounds;

3. Use booster seats in the back seat from about age four to at least age seven � unless the child is 4' 9" or taller; and

4. Use safety belts in the back seat at age seven or older or taller than 4 ft. 9 inches. All children age 12 or younger should ride in the back seat.

"Many parents are under the false impression that children who have outgrown child safety seats can move right into safety belts, but nothing could be further from the truth. Safety belts, which are designed to fit adults, won't fully restrain a child in a crash," said Cihak. So, this year, during National Child Passenger Safety Week, we are working hard to remind all parents, grandparents, child care providers and other adults in charge of children, to always remember that if their kids are under seven years old, they need a booster seat.

For more information about the proper use of child passenger safety restraints, call AAA at 800-222-4545.

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