Question of the Week

May 22, 2006


Car seat use is in the news. Even those who have no children of their own need to know what is safe -- and what is not. Whether babysitting or chauffeuring around younger siblings, all drivers need to know how to safely transport their younger passengers.

"It is not a role she auditioned for, but pop star Britney Spears has become a poster woman for child car seat safety. 'In one regard, she's done more for child safety seat awareness than anyone else in California,' California Highway Patrol spokesman Tom Marshall said Tuesday. ... The [California vehicle code] states that child safety seats must be properly installed according to federal safety guidelines which recommend that babies up to a year old and at least 20 pounds ride in them in the back seat facing backward, Marshall said. However, the singer's publicist Leslie Sloane Zelnik said Spears was in 'total compliance' with California state law. She cited California Vehicle Code 27360, requiring that 'all children under the age of 6 or weighing less than 60 pounds be in safety seats in the back seat of the car,' Zelnik said in a statement Tuesday. 'Having a child in the child safety seat facing forward in the rear seat of the car is in compliance with California law.' But Marshall said the code contained 'a bit of a gray area.'..."

While it may be a legal "gray area," pediatricians have no questions when it comes to safety.

"All infants should ride rear-facing until they have reached at least 1 year of age and weigh at least 20 pounds. That means that if your baby reaches 20 pounds before her first birthday, she should remain rear-facing until she turns 1."

More than just baby care, children need to be properly buckled into the vehicle.

"Each year thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes. You can help prevent this from happening to your child by always using car safety seats and seat belts correctly. ..."

What is considered "correctly"? What do drivers need to know about seat belt safety before driving anywhere with a child on board?

"*Always use a car safety seat. You can start with your baby's first ride home from the hospital.
* Never place a child in a rear-facing car safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger air bag.
* The safest place for all children to ride is in the back seat.
* Set a good example - always wear your seat belt. Help your child form a lifelong habit of buckling up.
* Remember that each car safety seat is different. Read and keep the instructions that came with your seat handy, and follow the manufacturer's instructions at all times.
...Other points to keep in mind when using seat belts
* Never tuck the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the back.
* If there's only a lap belt, make sure it's snug and low on the child's thighs, not across the stomach. Try to get a lap and shoulder belt installed in your car by a dealer.
* Never allow children or anyone else to 'share' seat belts. All passengers must have their own car safety seats or seat belts."

Set a good example, know how to use each car seat, remember to use seat belts properly.... It's a lot to think about. And then, there are booster seats.

"National statistics showing less than one out of every five kids between the ages of four and eight is riding in a car booster seat are a sign of 'failure' and must be addressed immediately, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said today during a visit to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. ... Mineta also called on parents to do a better job, saying they should make sure their children are in booster seats regardless of local statutes. 'Just because they may not be the law of the land, does not mean they should not be the law of your house,' Mineta said. ... 'Either way, ignorance isn't bliss... it's deadly,' he said."

"[M]ake sure ... children are in booster seats regardless of local statutes. 'Just because they may not be the law of the land, does not mean they should not be the law of your house'..."

Depending upon the state, the laws will be different. No matter what the law is in any given state, doctors and those involved with transportation safety want all drivers (and passengers) to make the safest choices... whether or not there is a law saying that is the choice they should be making.

"As of February 13, 2006, 34 States and the District of Columbia had enacted provisions in their child restraint laws requiring the use of an appropriate restraint device or booster seat by children who have outgrown their child safety seats but are still too small to use an adult safety belt correctly. ... Specific provisions vary widely from State to State. All laws include an age limit, but some States also emphasize weight limits, while others also stipulate height requirements."

At the above site, maps are available to help people know the age requirements for booster seat use where they live. Provisions vary. Other restrictions apply. Drivers need to know what the laws are in their own state, but also in any other states in which they might drive.
For those planning a road trip, it can get complicated.

For example:
* Two of the states with no booster seat requirement by age include: Arizona and Michigan.
* Two states that require booster seat use up to age 6 include: California and Georgia
* Two states that require booster seat use up to age 7 include: New York and Idaho
* Two states that require booster seat use up to age 8 include: Wisconsin And Maine
* The only two states that require booster seat use up to age 9 are: Wyoming and Tennessee

There is a lot of information out there. Parents, siblings, and babysitters need to know what questions to ask, what information they should have, and how to create the safest possible environment for the young passengers in their care.

"With the wide variety of child restraint systems, belt systems and passenger vehicles, correctly installing a child restraint system can be challenging. This web site is designed to help you identify and learn how to correct common mistakes when installing a child restraint and securing your child in the restraint. Making the right connections will help improve overall protection for your child. Always read child restraint and vehicle manufacturers‚ instructions for proper use and installation information."

Questions of the Week:
As a driver, non-driver, babysitter, sibling, or parent, what do you need to know about car seat and car booster seat use? What do you think are the most likely reasons why children are not properly restrained while riding in passenger vehicles? What misconceptions do you think your peers and family members have about proper car seat and car booster seat use? What would be the best way to reach these groups with more accurate information? What information do they need? How would the information and/ or presentation of the information vary depending upon the group which you are trying to reach?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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