Community Voices

All children in vehicles should wear seat belts or be in car seats

Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell
Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell

For many, buckling up in a vehicle is second nature. Open the door, sit down, start the car and buckle your seat belt.

But according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the United States in 2014, 9,385 people lost their lives as a result of not completing this simple, essential step.

That’s why local law enforcement agencies will join the administration May 23 to June 5 in the national Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign. This enforcement period comes ahead of the Memorial Day holiday, one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

While 88.5 percent of passenger vehicle occupants buckled up in 2015, almost 50 percent of occupants of fatal crashes nationwide are not restrained, according to the administration.

Many believe that driving in large vehicles, trucks, or SUVs offers greater protection during a vehicle crash. Sadly, this is not the case.

According to NHTSA, 61 percent of pickup truck occupants who were killed in crashes were not buckled up. That’s compared to 42 percent of passenger car occupants who were killed while not wearing their seat belts. Additionally, men and young adults are more likely to not wear seat belts.

Every day, I see kids still not properly restrained, so let’s review what the recommendations are for children in vehicles:

▪ Under 12 months: Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time. A rear-facing car seat is best for your young child to use. It has a harness and in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord.

▪ 1 to 3 Years: Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top heighb or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he or she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness. A forward-facing car seat has a harness and tether that limits your child’s forward movement during a crash.

▪ 4 to 7 Years: Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car set’s manufacture. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat , it’s time to travel in a booster seat but still in the back seat.

▪ 8 to 12 Years: Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: Your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there. A booster seat positions the seat belt so that it fits properly over the stronger parts of your child’s body.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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