Child Passenger Safety Week

By September 21, 2023Health Tips

It’s Child Passenger Safety Week. Car crashes are a leading cause of death in children. When the right car seat is used and installed correctly, car seats can significantly reduce the risk of injury in children. Unfortunately, many children are not riding in the right seat and when they are, up to half of them are not installed correctly. Let’s talk about how you can make sure you child’s seat is installed correctly.

Why is this so important?
Child Passenger Safety WeekThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just released statistics for 2021. According to the NHSTA, while riding in passenger vehicles in 2021:
  • 710 children under 13 were killed.
  • More than 100,000 children under 13 were injured.
  • More than a third (36%) of the children who died were unrestrained.
Data shows:
  • Car seat use reduces the risk for injury in crashes by 71-82% for children, compared to seat belt use alone.
  • Booster seat use reduces the risk of serious injury by 45% for children ages 4-8 compared with seat belt use alone.
  • Seat belt use reduces the risk for death and serious injury by about half for older children and adults.
How do you choose the correct seat?
The recommended seat for your child depends on their age, weight, and height. All children ages 12 and younger should be buckled properly in the back seat. Here are the stages:
Rear-facing car seat – Use from birth until ages 2-4.
  • Infants and toddlers should be buckled in a rear-facing car seat with a harness, in the back seat.
  • Check the car seat manual and labels for weight and height limits for the seat. When your child reaches the limits for this seat, they should move to a new seat.
  • NEVER place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of your vehicle. Front passenger air bags can injure or kill young children in a crash!
Forward-facing car seat – Use until at least age 5, depending on your child’s size.
  • Once children outgrow their rear-facing car seat, they should be buckled in a forward-facing seat with a harness and a top tether, in the back seat. The tether is an adjustable strap with hook used to connect to one of your vehicle’s tether anchors.
  • Use this car seat until your child reaches the maximum weight or height limit for this seat, which can be found in the manual and labels on the seat.
Booster seat – Use after outgrowing the forward-facing car seat, until the seat belt fits properly.
  • Use a belt-positioning booster seat.
  • If the booster seat does not position the seat belt properly, your child should still be in a forward-facing car seat.
  • A seat belt fits properly when the lap belt is across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt is across the center of the shoulder and chest. It should not be across the neck or face, and not off the shoulder.
  • Seat belt fit can vary by vehicle. Check the fit in each vehicle they may ride in to make sure they don’t need a booster seat. Sometimes they need a booster seat in one vehicle but not in a different vehicle.
Seat belt use – When the seat belt fits properly without a booster seat.
  • Use a seat belt every time you are in the car.
  • Proper seat belt fit usually occurs between ages 9 and 12, depending on size.
  • Children 12 years old and younger should ride in the back seat, even after the seat belt fits properly, for the best protection from injury.
How do you know if the car seat is installed properly?
The annual Child Passenger Safety Week will end with National Seat Check Saturday. This year, certified child passenger safety technicians will be offering free car safety seat checks and education nationwide on Saturday, September 23. Use this link to find a car seat inspection station near you:
Using the same link, if you scroll up from the section on car seat inspection, you will also find a section on car seat installation with an explanation of car seat parts and vehicle parts that are used to install car seats, as well as instructions for installing various kinds of rear and forward-facing car seats, and booster seats.

For more child safety information for parents and caregivers, use this link:

Parents and Caregivers | NHTSA

If you have any questions about child car safety, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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