Safety seats are a must

By DEBBIE H. FLEMING Special to The State Journal Published:

The importance of using child safety seats cannot be stressed enough. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration child safety seats, when used and installed correctly, are 71 percent effective in reducing infant deaths, 54 percent effective in reducing toddler deaths, and 67 percent effective in reducing the need for hospitalization.

Is there a car safety seat that is better for your child? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there is no one best fit safety seat for children. The best safety seat is one that fits your child properly and is installed correctly.

The safest place for children under 12 years of age is in the back seat of a vehicle. Infants from birth and less than one year of age who weigh up to 20 pounds should be placed in a rear-facing seat in the back seat. Children who are age one to about age four and who weigh 20-40 pounds should be secured in a forward-facing toddler seat. Children who have outgrown infant and toddler seats, but who are too small for adult seat belts should be placed in a booster seat.

Generally children who are age four to age eight and who are 4-9 or less should be placed in a booster seat. Booster seats are designed to raise the child to an appropriate height so that the seat/shoulder belt fits properly. If positioned correctly the shoulder belt should cross over your childs chest resting on the shoulder, fitting snugly across the collarbone. The lap belt should rest low across the pelvis or hip area, but never across the stomach.

Seat/shoulder belts are designed to restrain adults, not children. If used to restrain young children they can cause serious injury or even death. It is estimated that only 20 percent of the children between the ages of four and eight are restrained in booster seats. That means that one in five children is improperly secured and is at risk of being injured or killed. Ninety percent of all children ages four to eight who have been seriously injured in crashes were not in a booster seat.

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have booster seat laws. Currently 16 states, including Kentucky, have no such legislation requiring the use of booster seats.

During the 2006 General Assembly, legislation was introduced to require booster seat usage. While the bill itself passed, the committee substitute concerning booster seats failed.

Whether there is a statue or not the safest place for all children is in properly installed safety seats. The Franklin County Health Department (FCHD) and Drive Smart of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet are teaming up with law enforcement agencies to offer a booster seat installation and a general car seat check up.

The event will be held Thursday, May 25, 2:30-6:30 p.m. at the FCHD Public Health Center. The center is located at 851 East-West Connector.

Debbie Howes Fleming is the health education director with the Franklin County Health Department. For more information about column topics or to contact her or the FCHD Community Health Education team, call 564-5559 or visit the websites FCHD.org.

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