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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death among children ages three to 14 years old. From September 14-20, Child Passenger Safety Week is observed to promote child car safety.

The Massachusetts Child Passenger Safety Law requires that all children in passenger motor vehicles ride in a Federally-approved child passenger seat that is properly fastened and secured until they are eight years old or over 57 inches tall.

Parents and guardians can help ensure child passenger safety with the following tips for choosing the right child seat and using it correctly:

Selecting a Child Seat

The two main concerns for selecting a child seat that fits a child correctly are the weight and height limits.

  • Children should be in a car seat with a five-point harness system (two shoulder straps, two hip straps, and a crotch strap) until they reach the weight or height limit of the seat – whichever comes first.
  • Children should ride rear-facing in their safety seat until they are at least one years old and weigh at least 20 pounds.
  • Review the progression of child restraint seats to select the type that best suits the age, height, and weight of a child.

Installing a Child Seat

73% of car seats are not used properly. Before hitting the road, parents should understand the safety requirements for installing a child seat in a vehicle.

  • The seat should be installed tightly enough to hold in the area of the seat belt or latch belt without more than one inch of wiggle room.
  • Harnesses should fit snugly on a child – if you can pinch any slack in the harness, then it is too loose.
  • Check that your child’s car seat is installed correctly with the car seat checkup list.

Positioning a Child Seat

All children younger than 13 years old should ride in the back seat. Never place a child in the front seat facing an airbag.

  • The rear center position is considered the safest seating location in a vehicle, due to the distance from any crash impact.
  • If a child is no longer in a car seat and is using an adult seat belt, they still need to be in a seating position with a lap and shoulder belt.

General Car Passenger Safety Tips

  • An estimated 50% of Massachusetts drivers do not wear a seat belt. Set a good example for children and remember to buckle up for every ride.
  • Only buy a used car seat if you know its full crash history. Once a car seat has been in a crash, you must follow the criteria for replacing a child seat.
  • Look before you lock. Never leave a child unattended in your car, even for a minute. The temperature inside motor vehicles can rise 20 degrees in the time it takes to run in and out of a store.

Parents and guardians have an obligation to make sure children are safe when they are passengers in motor vehicles. Take the extra time to ensure child restraint and booster seats are properly installed and positioned for each child. Always remember to buckle up, and safe travels while on the road!

What are your child passenger safety tips? Share them with us in the comments below, or tweet us @MassGov.

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