September 22 to 28 is National Child Passenger Safety Week. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are a leading killer of children ages 1 to 13. In motor vehicle crashes (cars, SUVs, vans, and pick-ups) an estimated 3,149 children under 13 were killed between 2011 and 2015. Another estimated 599,000 children were injured.
Using the correct child seat properly is the single most effective thing you can do to protect your child in a crash. Under California law, a child must be secured by either a federally approved child passenger restraint system or a safety belt depending on their height and age.
- Children under 2 years of age shall ride in a rear facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 pounds or more or is 40 or more inches tall. The child shall be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat. (California Vehicle Code Section 27360.) According to the NHTSA, a rear facing seat is the best seat for a child to use because it has a harness and in a crash cradles and moves with the child to reduce the stress to a child’s fragile neck and spinal cord.
- Children under age 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat. A booster seat positions the seat belt so that it fits properly over the stronger parts of a child’s body, according to the NHTSA.
- Children who are 8 years old or are 4 feet 9 inches in height may be secured by a booster seat, but at a minimum must be secured by a safety belt. (California Vehicle Code Section 27363.)
While California law allows for a child 8 or older to use a seat belt, however, according to the California Highway Patrol, it is safer for a child to remain in a booster seat until the following can be positively answered.
- Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
- Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
- Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm, resting on the collarbone?
- Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
- Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
Tuolumne County will hold free car seat checkups on September 18, 19, and 20, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Tuolumne County Health Department parking lot, 20111 Cedar Road North in Sonora. Call 209-533-7464 for more information.
Once a month, the Keep Baby Safe Program offers a free car seat class and $20 Walmart voucher towards a booster seat or convertible seat. Call 209-533-7469 for details.
Also, Certified Child Passenger Safety Seat Technicians can be contacted through the Tuolumne County Public Health Department (209-533-7469) or the Jamestown California Highway Patrol Office (209-984-3944).