Easley urges car seat safety

Raleigh — Gov. Mike Easley urged motorists this week to remain diligent about properly securing their children in child passenger safety devices, including age- and size-appropriate car seats and booster seats.

He also encouraged citizens to participate in child passenger safety clinics being held across the state this week as part of National Child Passenger Safety Week.

“It is the responsibility of every parent and caregiver to make sure their children are safely restrained each time they get in the car,” Easley said. “I urge everyone to get their child safety seats inspected. When it comes to the safety of a child, there is no room for mistakes.”

In 2007, a total of 25 children aged seven and younger were killed and 97 were seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes in North Carolina. Law enforcement officers reported that at least 68 of those child victims were not restrained.

Safe Kids North Carolina, a program of the N.C. Department of Insurance, provides technical training to traffic safety advocates and outreach to families statewide. In conjunction with National Child Passenger Safety Week, local Safe Kids coalitions will be conducting child passenger safety clinics to provide low-cost safety seats to qualified recipients and help families learn how to use them correctly.

Three out of four child safety seats are improperly installed in vehicles according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For maximum child passenger safety, parents and caregivers should refer to the following National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 4 Steps for Kids guidelines for determining which restraint system is best suited to protect children based on age and size:

1. 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 at least age 1 and at least 20 pounds.

2. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at least age 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).

3. 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 lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they are 4 feet 9 inches tall).

4. When children outgrow their booster seats, (usually at age 8 or when they are 4 feet 9 inches tall) they can use the adult seat belts in the back seat, if they fit properly. A proper fit is when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest.

For more information about National Child Passenger Safety Week and the proper use of booster seats, visit www.BoosterSeat.gov or www.buckleupnc.org. Information about child passenger safety clinics across the state is available by contacting Safe Kids North Carolina toll free at 1-888-347-3737.