Gerber Life Family Times --- News and tips for familes of all ages and stages of life

A Little Restraint  
Know what to do to keep your kids safe in the car.


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Child Safety
Know what to do to keep your kids safe in the car.

Gerber Life Family Times Archive

ImageIf your family is like most across the country, your days are filled with running the kids to school, picking them up, racing to and from extra-curricular activities, and visiting friends and family. As a parent, many of those trips you make are accompanied by little passengers—your children. While modern cars, trucks, and minivans have been outfitted with better safety features (improved seatbelts and passive restraint devices such as front and side airbags), those smaller passengers traveling with you require special attention when it comes to ensuring a safe trip in the car. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that in the United States during 2005, 1,451 children ages 14 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and approximately 203,000 were injured. That amounts to an average of 4 deaths and 556 injuries each day.  Of the children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2005, nearly half were unrestrained. Car safety measures have changed a great deal over the past thirty years, and lawmakers have paid particular attention to protecting the safety of child passengers.

ImageSmart passenger restraint regarding children begins during pregnancy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that when you're an expectant mother it is important to always wear your seat belt to protect yourself as well as your unborn child. An expectant mother should wear the lap belt across the hips and below the belly with the shoulder belt across the chest (between the breasts). Once a child is born, how they sit in a car, truck or sport utility vehicle changes as they grow and get older. Consistently following the four steps provided by NHTSA is essential in ensuring the safety of your child:

  • Rear-Facing Seats—For the best possible protection keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until a minimum of age 1 and at least 20 pounds. Additional statistics from the CDC indicate that child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers 1-4 years of age.
  • Forward-Facing Seats—When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at a minimum age of 1 and at least 20 pounds) they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).
  • Booster Seats—Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lies across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they are 4' 9" tall). The CDC notes that for children 4 to 7 years of age, booster seats reduce injury risk by 59% compared to safety belt use alone.
  • Seat Belts—When children outgrow their booster seats, (usually at age 8 or when they are 4'9" tall) they can use the adult seat belt in the back seat, if it fits properly (the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest).

But even the best restraint system won't be effective if it is used or installed incorrectly. The CDC notes that one study found that 72% of nearly 3,500 observed child restraint systems were misused in a way that could be expected to increase a child's risk of injury during a crash. To help parents remedy such a situation, NHTSA has an online child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator tool that enables you to find the nearest facility by zip code or by state. The "Fitting Station" Locator tool can be found on the NHTSA website at As an added degree of safety, NHTSA emphasizes that all children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat and that parents should always read the child restraint instructions, which come with their particular vehicle's owner's manual.

Remember, children learn by example and restraint use among young children often depends upon the driver's restraint use. The CDC notes that one study found that 40% of children riding with an unbelted driver were unrestrained themselves. Embracing your child for a hug is a sign of how much you love them. Think of the embrace of a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt as an extended form of your hug. It's just one more important way to show your child he or she is loved and protected—no matter where your travels take you.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—
Centers for Disease Control and Preventionn—
American Academy of Pediatriciansn—

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.

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