The widespread use of children's car seats has reduced the number of injuries and fatalities on American roads, but experts agree that more needs to be done."Every state requires that children under the age of four are secured while riding in a car," noted Ray Palermo, director of public information for Teachers' Insurance Plan.
"Yet despite the laws and warnings, car crashes are still the single largest cause of death among children under the age of 14."
It is estimated that half of the approximately 1,500 fatalities each year could be prevented with the proper use of a child car seat.
Although state laws vary and parents should check to ensure they are complying with all local regulations, the insurer offered some general guidelines for parents to follow.
Start out right: The best way to get children in the habit of using safety restraints is to learn from their parent's example. The driver, all adult passengers and all infants and children should be safely secured before starting the engine.
Infants up to 20 pounds: Infants from birth to one year old and under 20 pounds in weight should be secured in an infant car safety seat on the back seat of the vehicle, facing the rear. This avoids injury from an inflated airbag and will be less of a distraction for the driver. If your vehicle does not have a back seat, deactivate the airbag for that trip, but be sure to reactivate it when an adult is the passenger.
Infants 20 plus pounds: Infants from birth to one year and more than 20 pounds should be either secured in a convertible safety seat or in an infant seat approved for their weight. The seats should be secured on the back seat of the vehicle, facing the rear.
Children 20 to 40 pounds: Children older than one year who weigh 20 to 40 pounds should be secured in a child safety seat on the back seat of the vehicle, facing forward.
Children 40 plus pounds: Children who have outgrown their child safety seat, but are still too small (less than 4' 9") to use the standard adult safety belt in the car, should use a booster seat. The lap belt should sit across the hips and the shoulder belt should not cross the neck or face.
Teachers' Insurance Plan also offered these cautions: Be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions on proper installation or check with your local police or fire department, who are often certified to inspect car seats. When buying a car seat, look for the DOT tag. Do not use a car seat that is broken or missing parts.
For more information go to the Safety Information Center at www.teachers.com/safety.