there are fatal accidents involving children and infants that are preventable if only they were properly restrained in their car seats. So many times, as a police officer, I’ve heard the excuses that “I was just going to the store and it’s just down the road.” Or “How am I supposed to know when they take their seat belt off?”
To the latter, I have replied that a clue would be that your child is jumping around on the back seat and making faces at cars behind you. A fellow officer recently heard, “I normally don’t drive this car.”
The reality is that with the proper child seat that fits your child, you should not have to worry about such things. And as a parent or caregiver, you can concentrate on things that you should be doing, like watching the road and being a responsible driver. There are never any excuses for not taking the time to properly restrain your child or a child you’re caring for.
According to the CDC, in 2020, 607 child passengers were killed ages 12 and younger with over 63,000 injuries. Of those children killed, 38% were not buckled up. According to fatal crash data, child restraint use decreased with age. Forty percent of 8 to 12-year-olds were not buckled up who were killed in a crash, compared to 31% of children under 4 years old.
In a different study in 2019, 3% of children under 1 were not restrained; 6% of children one to three were not restrained; 14% of four to seven-year-olds were not restrained, and 13% of children 8 to 12 years old were not restrained. The study also found that many children graduate too soon to the next stage of child safety seat.
In Georgia, an infant must be rear facing. Keep that child rear facing as long as possible if that child still meets the weight requirements for that seat. When it’s time to go forward facing, make sure the child meets the height and age requirements for that seat from the manufacture. Many mistakes I see parents and caregivers make are thinking the harness doesn’t need to be adjusted if it fits around the child. That harness must be adjusted as your child is growing to be properly restrained. Car seat and booster seat misuse can have deadly consequences. If used incorrectly, the seat is less effective.
• Incorrect recline angle for rear-facing car seats
• Loose installation for all car seats
• Loose harness for all car seats
• Harness behind child’s arms, legs or back in forward-facing car seats
• Improper lap belt position for booster seats
• Improper shoulder belt position for booster seats.
Seat belts in vehicles are designed for a passenger that is four feet nine inches or taller. This is why a booster seat is so important. It puts the seat belt on the collar bone and not on the neck. In the event of a crash, this could be deadly. Also, a child should never put a seat belt behind them as this could collapse the upper part of the body onto the lap and damage the spine or worse.
Never have a child riding in the front seat unless all the other seats must be used in the back for other children in their restraints. The reason being is the air bag can kill a child if not meeting the height requirement. A good rule of thumb is if there isn’t a “teen” at the end of their age, like “thirteen,” then tell them to buckle up in the back seat. They can’t ride up front yet.
Children in Georgia must be in a car seat or booster seat until the age of 8 years old. But there are cases where an 8-year-old doesn’t meet the height requirement and must remain in a booster seat still. There are also cases where children with special needs require specific booster seats and harnesses to meet requirements.
I understand the rules and installation of car seats can be confusing. Being a new parent, you want to have everything perfect for your new pride and joy. You want your child to be as safe as possible. Looking at the instructions for car seat installation can be intimidating, but I promise you, you can do it by taking your time and learning the process.
Remember that the super vital information is right there on the side of the seat. That is the height and weight requirements for that seat. Learn if that seat has recalls. Refer to the owner’s manual of your car under child passenger safety seat.
The Lilburn Police Department stands ready to help! We have certified child safety seat technicians, such as me, willing to walk you through the installation to ensure you know how to properly install the child passenger seat and make sure you have the right child seat.
Simply call the LPD (770-921-2211) Monday through Friday and make an appointment.